How Philanthropy Can Catalyze Private Investment in Opportunity Zones

March 13, 2019

Oppzones_792x800The U.S. Department of the Treasury expects Opportunity Zones to unlock well over $100 billion in private investment in low-wealth communities across the United States. The tax incentive, which became law as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, seeks to encourage patient capital investments in more than eighty-seven hundred designated census tracts across the country by permitting investors to reinvest capital gains in designated census tracts in exchange for tax benefits.

Opportunity Zones represent the first time federal tax policy has sought to tap unrealized capital gains to advance economic and community development. Proponents believe the incentive will help transform low-wealth communities, while skeptics have doubts that funds will flow to the people and places most in need — and, even if they do, that the ensuing transformation will have a positive impact on longtime residents and small businesses.

Against this backdrop, philanthropy should step up and help shape the Opportunity Zone landscape so that benefits of the legislation also accrue to longtime residents and businesses.

Here are six ways philanthropy can help:

1. Shape the rules of the game. Philanthropy can influence IRS guidelines for Opportunity Zones — and, if necessary, follow-on legislation — to ensure that the incentive is implemented in a manner that reflects the interests of communities and the intent of the program. For some foundations, this may include support for developing and tracking metrics, stakeholder interviews to uncover opportunities and issues, and/or deep-dive case studies of specific transactions. The data from these activities can then be used to generate valuable tweaks to the design of the program. As always, data-driven insights will be critical to making the case for modifying, fine-tuning, or extending the incentive.

2. Level the playing field. Foundations are well suited to ensure that communities are poised to attract investor interest and have a seat at the table as Opportunity Zone transactions are negotiated. Organizations such as Accelerator for America are already working with cities across the country to create investment prospectuses, while others such as the Governance Project are working with municipal leadership to develop business cases and strategies for priority projects in communities such as Louisville and San Jose. There is far more that can and should be done, however, and the unique features of rural Opportunity Zones must also be accounted for so that those communities are not left behind.

3. Incentivize investor behavior. Capital is likely to follow the path of least resistance. This does not imply that social returns cannot be integrated effectively into Opportunity Zone transactions. Rather, it is incumbent on philanthropy to help create an environment where community benefits, standardized impact reporting, and related activities become "no-brainers" for investors. The Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework, a voluntary guideline recently introduced by the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, is an important initiative aimed at defining best practices for investors and fund managers looking to deploy capital in Opportunity Zones.

In addition to support for emerging norms and guidelines, we see a few additional ways to create incentives for investors to focus on social returns. Philanthropy can partner with impact-oriented investors to demonstrate what is possible in real-world transactions. A few carefully selected and constructed demonstration deals could begin to unlock practices across similar asset classes in different places. Philanthropy could also support a high-profile annual award for the highest-impact transactions, as well as the equivalent of a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for Opportunity Zone transactions and funds.

4. Create investable opportunities. Now that the Opportunity Zone incentive exists, the challenge is to develop a robust pipeline of transactions that meet both the needs of communities and the return expectations of investors. To that end, philanthropy can help by identify projects for investment and provide the upfront investment needed to take an idea to the project proposal stage. Once a deal has been conceptualized, philanthropy can play a role in reducing risk exposure for investors so that deals with the greatest potential to drive positive change proceed.

In addition, because Opportunity Zones are a new tool, template agreements and other documentation needed to enable transactions do not yet exist. Philanthropy can help there by investing in efforts to establish a collection of model agreements that could be shared across locations and projects. Such an investment would reduce transaction costs and help establish norms and expectations with respect to social impact.

5. Build wealth for local residents. It's inevitable that new investment dollars will change Opportunity Zone neighborhoods. As such, it's important to minimize displacement risks and create upside for residents, including small business owners, by better meeting their current needs and creating mechanisms for wealth creation throughout the process, including at exit. This could include clauses that commit project sponsors to hiring from within the community, financial upside for local organizations, and/or clauses for business owners to buy back their equity at a pre-agreed price. To do this effectively, philanthropy should engage with investors and local leaders to seed and share demonstration transactions that show the way.

6. Accelerate progress via coordination and knowledge sharing. Ultimately, the strength of the Opportunity Zone program is that it is inherently local. While each of the designated census tracts is unique, there are common challenges and patterns across designated zones. Philanthropy can help accelerate results and improve the allocation of scarce resources by supporting coordination and communication within and across markets. These activities might include seeding "open-source" solutions, sharing learnings across stakeholder groups, and promoting coordination among leading actors across the country. While informal coordination and information sharing happens today, thoughtful investments by philanthropy could truly super-charge impact.

It seems as though Opportunity Zones have captivated all of us working to build more equitable communities and a more inclusive economy for all Americans. Though the debate about the incentive's long-term impact will continue, the reality is that Opportunity Zones are here to stay. Whether you are an optimist or skeptic, now is the time for philanthropy to step up and demonstrate how this new source of private capital can shape the evolving market landscape and positively impact communities in need of a boost.

Headshot_rhett_tammy_janeRhett Buttle is founder of Public Private Strategies (PPS) and a former Obama administration official. Tammy Halevy is a senior advisor with PPS and an expert in innovative community development finance with a focus on small business. Jane Campbell is a senior advisor with PPS and the former mayor of Cleveland. The PPS team is advising philanthropies on how to best engage with Opportunity Zones.

Weekend Link Roundup (March 9-10, 2019)

March 10, 2019

John-Oliver-picture-1A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

"We have reached a moment when foundations must face the ways they may be reinforcing inequality," write Brittany Boettcher and Kathleen Kelly Janus in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. But, they add, there are three things funders can do to improve their efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Grantmaking

Candid, PND's parent organization, will be well represented at this year's PEAK Grantmaking conference in Denver. On the GrantCraft blog, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Candid, previews the sessions she and our colleague Jen Bokoff will be leading.

Health

On the Commonwealth Fund's Tipping Point blog, Billy Wynne, co-founder of Wynne Health Group, and Josh LaRosa, a policy associate at the firm, look at actions taken by the Trump administration and Congress to rein in prescription drug prices — and find little to cheer about. 

Journalism

The sale of the Newseum building in Washington, D.C. to Johns Hopkins University is a cautionary tale — one that the museum’s leadership must take to heart when and if it ever opens its doors again. Kriston Capps reports for CityLab.

Nonprofits

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington looks at five key traits that separate nonprofits that grow their work and impact from nonprofits that don’t. 

In a new post on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther updates readers on the steps taken by the Humane Society of the United States to recover from the charges of sexual harassment levied against Wayne Pacelle, its former chief executive.

Philanthropy

Jeff Polet, a professor of political science at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, argues in a post on the Philanthropy Daily site that that the first rule of philanthropy (and economics and politics) ought always to be "First, do no harm."

In a post on the HistPhil blog, Drummond Pike, the founder and former president of the Tides Foundation, details the fall of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform, better known as ACORN — and, in the words of the site's editors, provides "a new perspective on an important development in the recent past — the tension that arose between grantmaking foundations and more radical grantee organizations." 

How are millennials and Gen Z changing the landscape of philanthropy?

Social Justice

In his latest, Nonprofit AF's Vu Le argues that it is critical that all "communities of color examine [their] relationships with one another, [their] own biases, and how [they] may be benefiting from the oppression of others, especially of the Bback community, without even realizing it." 

Women and Girls

In Fast Company, Eillie Anzilotti examines an unconditional cash transfer program in Kenya which found that when people in a relationship — especially women — received extra money, rates of physical and sexual violence declined.

And on the GuideStar blog, Erica Roberts, a communications coordinator for Candid, shares key findings from the report Encouraging Giving to Women's and Girls' Causes: The Role of Social Norms, which examined survey responses from more than twenty-five hundred people who were asked questions like "How interested do you think others are, or will be in the future, in giving to women's and girls' causes?"

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

4 Questions You Should Consider Before Giving Internationally

March 08, 2019

512x512bbWhether you've traveled to distant parts of the world and were inspired by the inventiveness of the communities you visited, read about an issue in an article, or maybe just feel a kinship with a special place, the desire to help others can quickly move to the top of your priority list. Supporting the efforts of nonprofits working on issues you most care about is a great way to take action. But giving outside the U.S. can be daunting. Luckily, there are lots of resources that can help you achieve what you hope to with your generosity.

Whether you're considering a one-time donation or providing sustained support to a charity somewhere else in the world, there are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge.

1. Where would you like to donate? There are plenty of issues around the world that could use, and are deserving of, your help. But which of those do you feel passionately about? Rainforest conservation in Brazil? Great! Schools for girls in Kenya? Fantastic! The first step is narrowing it down.

Do some research to find out which charities align with your giving goals. A quick glance at most charities' websites will give you a good idea about the impact the charity has had in the past and how it is working toward its mission today.

This kind of research sometimes can be more challenging than a simple Web search. Some foreign organizations have a great online presence with lots of good information translated into English. When this is not the case, donors have some options:

There are a number of 501(c)(3) organizations that facilitate international grantmaking and also provide extensive databases of organizations eligible to receive funding (the CAF America Global Database is one).

Some countries also maintain national registries of charities. The UK Charity Commission and Canadian Revenue Agency List of Charities are both good country-specific resources.

2. How do you make sure you're not breaking any rules? As you might imagine, giving to charity across borders — like any financial transaction — is subject to oversight by both the U.S. and foreign governments, which makes cross-border giving more complex than simply writing a check and dropping it in the mail. In many cases, there's a complicated matrix of regulations related to money laundering, terrorism, and organized crime that donors are required to follow.

While you might think most of these regulations apply to entities on the receiving end of a charitable contribution, they impact the donor — whether it's an individual, corporation, or nonprofit organization. The bottom line? If you're initiating the financial transaction, you are responsible for making sure the funds are used appropriately. This might seem like a bridge too far, but working with an intermediary or other U.S. public charity can take the guesswork out of it. An experienced intermediary organization will be able to conduct the necessary due diligence and protect a donor's reputation, ensure regulatory compliance, and eliminate any risks.

3. Are there tax benefits to giving abroad? When you're looking to support a charity that impressed you with their work on, say, ocean conservancy, getting a tax break is probably the last thing on your mind. But it's not nothing and it's not a bad thing to keep in mind, because being able to claim a deduction for your gift means you'll have more funds available to donate to other causes.

Not all charitable donations are tax deductible, and in fact donations made directly to charitable organizations outside the U.S. do not qualify. That said, there are several ways to receive a tax deduction while supporting charitable work overseas. For example, you can opt to support a U.S. charity that operates programs abroad. Or, if you prefer that your donation go directly to a foreign charity, you can opt to make your gift through a U.S. intermediary organization. Intermediary organizations are U.S. public charities that often assume the risks inherent in making donations to organizations outside the U.S. and make it possible for the donor to receive a tax receipt at the time of their donation. The donation is made to the intermediary, but you'll be able to recommend which foreign charity is supported by your gift.

Donors should check how the intermediary organization they choose to work through operates, as there are differences among intermediaries with respect to the amount of due diligence performed, fees charged, etc.

4. What impact would you like to make with your donation? Whether you'd like to effect change over the long term by paying for a child's education or would like to help in a more immediate way by supporting a community after a disaster, it's important to be clear about your expectations. Clarity about what you'd like to accomplish with your donation is key to establishing reasonable expectations that both you and the charity in question are comfortable with.

Giving outside the U.S. is complicated, but there are a number of organizations that specialize in cross-border giving and have made it relatively simple for Americans to support charitable causes in nearly any country. With the assurances provided by a comprehensive due diligence process and some patience, giving internationally can be a fulfilling experience. By being realistic about the needs on the ground and your own good intentions, anyone can take advantage of the capacity and efforts of charities around the world to do good.

Headshot_ted_hartTed Hart (@cafamerica), ACFRE, CAP®, is the president and CEO of CAF America and has over thirty years' experience in global philanthropy. He is also the editor of Cross-Border Giving: A Legal and Practical Guide, Workbook Edition (Charity Channel Press, 2019).

New Study on the Role of Philanthropy in a Safe, Healthy and Just World

March 07, 2019

Globus-icon-300Candid (Foundation Center + Guidestar) and Centris (Rethinking Poverty) are conducting a study on the role of philanthropy in producing safe, healthy, and just societies.

At a time when many people are questioning the value of philanthropy, the study aims to clarify its role in creating peaceful and inclusive societies that provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and responsive institutions.

A survey designed to identify stakeholders, strategies, and outcomes across a variety of dimensions of social progress is the first component of the study.

Initial results of the survey will be published in the June 2019 issue of Alliance magazine, a leading source of comment and analysis on global philanthropy that is read by over 24,000 philanthropy practitioners around the world.

The June edition will include an in-depth feature exploring the role of philanthropy in peace building — thirty pages that illuminate philanthropy practice around the world, explore the merit and value of community-based approaches to conflict resolution, and profile some of the pioneering people and networks in the field. The issue is being guest edited by a new generation of practitioners working at the intersection of philanthropy and peace — Hope Lyons of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lauren Bradford of Candid, and the Dalia Association's Rasha Sansour. (For examples of the magazine's recent special features, see https://www.alliancemagazine.org/magazine/.)

A full report on the survey will be produced for discussion by the field at a variety of venues. All those who take part in the study will receive a copy of the report.

The survey has twenty questions and only takes seven to eight minutes to complete. Click here to take the survey now: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Candid_Centris

Barry_knightThe survey closes on Wednesday, March 27, and all answers will be treated in confidence.

Please take part. Your views are important to us.

Barry Knight (barryknight@cranehouse.eu)

What Is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Thinking?

March 06, 2019

Untitled_1960After more than forty-five years in the museum field as a curator, director, consultant, museum studies professor, writer, and trustee, I have observed that in spite of an abiding concern for the integrity of their collections, and despite the sincere anguish expressed whenever a collection is destroyed by a natural disaster or is sacrificed to human impulse, museums too often are willing to compromise that integrity.  

What? 

Museums are willing to violate the public trust?  

Yes. And they do it when they sell objects from their collections on the open market. 

By now, most of you have read or heard that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is planning to sell Mark Rothko's Untitled, 1960, which it has not exhibited since 2002The picture has an enviable provenance, and Sotheby's will auction it this spring in New York City. Reports in the media say that proceeds from the sale will be used by SFMOMA to acquire art by people of color and women, as well as to establish an endowment for future acquisitions. Estimates of what the painting might fetch range from $30 million to $50 million — an amount, it would seem, SFMOMA trustees could raise among themselves if they were truly interested in keeping an important example of the work of one of the world's foremost abstract expressionists in the museum's collection.  

Why does it matter?

Museums are more than just repositories of stuff. They long ago evolved beyond their origins as cabinets of curiosities and today function as social hubs, conveyors of cultural status, catalysts for economic development, and retail trade operations, as well as places for object-based learning, contemplation, and enjoyment.

Notwithstanding the cumulative impact of these changes, the core precept of museums as thing-centered operations is what makes them unique. The museum was invented as a place where the tangible is used to explain the intangible. Collections are assembled for their evidentiary value, the objects in them providing direct proof of the topic at hand. And once they've been selected, those objects should be preserved and protected. The obligation to preserve and honor objects that have been acquired plays out most obviously in the areas of safe and secure storage, scholarly access, and public exhibitions. Indeed, museums have been so successful in making this point that the response to selling a work, as SFMOMA has decided to do with one of its Rothkos, is almost always calamitous.

Except for loss of life, the tragedy museum officials fear most is the destruction of an institution's collections. Museums are stewards of our shared cultural patrimony, and those who curate the collections they hold recoil at the thought of losing objects to chance, negligence, or something more insidious. Notable museum losses that continue to reverberate include the unsolved theft in 1990 of thirteen pieces of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the looting in 2003 of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in 2003, the ransacking in 2015 of the Mosul Museum by ISIS, and the recent horrific destruction by fire of the National Museum of Brazil

Museums devote considerable resources to protecting the art, artifacts, and specimens in their collections. Tens of thousands of skilled professionals — curators, conservators, directors, collection managers, security and maintenance staff — are employed by museums around the country to collect and safekeep these objects. One must assume that SFMOMA has many such professionals on staff. One could be forgiven, however, for thinking that the museum's decision to sell the Rothko suggests that some of these folks see themselves as temporary custodians of highly profitable and expendable goods.

Selling objects from a museum collection is nothing new. The practice even has a name: deaccessioning. Unless there are preexisting ownership restrictions, it is legal for museums in the United States to deaccession unwanted items. In fact, it is accepted (if not condoned) by museum membership organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums and the American Association for State and Local History. But one doesn't have to look far to learn that the practice contravenes generally accepted views regarding the preservation of objects entrusted to a museum's care.

In the United States, most museums are privately owned and operated and are classified as tax-exempt entities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. They are governed by boards of trustees on behalf of the public; those trustees usually are volunteers and often have no previous museum experience, relying instead on professional staff to run the institutions they oversee.

In their capacity as fiduciaries, museum trustees may do as they wish with the collections under their care. But the controversy around commercial deaccessioning oddly sidesteps the too-common reality that, unless another museum purchases the object for sale, the object usually ends up the hands of a private collector and is "lost" to the public. How does that align with the public benefit imperative required of museums as tax-exempt entities and that most museums embrace in their actions? It doesn't.

Sothebys_catalogues

If you get a chance, try and figure out what happened to the objects sold at auction in the catalogues pictured above. Don't count on the museums that made the decision to deaccession the objects being able to tell you; as far as they're concerned, the objects may as well have been vaporized. And, no surprise, auction houses do not divulge their buyers. In fact, deaccessioning works to the advantage of private buyers. One interesting theory going around about the Rothko deaccession has it that a friend of an SFMOMA board member desired a stellar example of the painter's work for his or her collection. These days, Rothkos on the open market are as scarce as hen's teeth. One soon will be available, however.

Occasionally, a museum will make the case that selling a piece of art is necessary to assure its survival. This does not seem to be the case with SFMOMA. 

So, what is the "right" answer? What can we — those of us in the museum community and the public more generally — do to prevent such deaccessionings in the future? First, recognize the practice for what it is and acknowledge how it contravenes a museum's fundamental commitment to protect and care for the items in its care. Second, hold parties to the decision accountable when their actions violate sustainable collection care mandates. Third, understand that such actions put all museums in a bad light. And fourth, rectify the practice. 

Mitigating the unfortunate results of deaccessioning isn't difficult. An item can be deaccessioned and kept by the museum for educational purposes. Or it can be sold or gifted to another museum — a win-win-win arrangement. The museum moving the item no longer has the expense of caring for it. The museum taking the object can agree to assure its future and, if it cannot, can agree to transfer it a later date to another museum with the same restrictions. In either case, the public will still have access to it. And the object and its provenance will stay intact.     

Inter-museum transfer of "unwanted" pieces can be of immense value, ethically and practically, to the museum field. It aligns with the preservation obligation museums embrace 24/7. It would put an end to the hypocrisy of voicing concern for a collection's integrity while at the same time selling pieces of the collection into oblivion. And it need not rule out profit. If the sale is to another museum, museum deaccessions can continue to be commercial propositions.

We hear a lot about museum failings these days, including their lack of inclusion, diversity, and social access. These criticisms are valid and are being addressed by museums across the country. In the case of SFMOMA, steps to address shortcomings can be taken that do not involve the sacrifice of an important painting by a twentieth-century master. That would be the right thing to do.

(Image credit: Auction house catalog covers for sales featuring items officially deaccessioned by museums. Photo by Steven Miller, 2017; p. 17, Deaccessioning Today: Theory and Practice, Steven Miller, Rowland & Littlefield, 2018 c. Steven Miller 2018.)

Headshot_steven_millerSteven Miller has worked in the museum field since 1971 as a trustee, director, curator, consultant, writer, educator, lecturer, and media commentator. For sixteen years he was an adjunct professor at the Seton Hall University MA Program in Museum Professions, and he continues to be affiliated with the Museum Accreditation Program of the American Alliance of Museums. He is, in addition, the author of The Anatomy of a Museum: An Insider's Text (Wiley) and Deaccessioning Today: Theory and Practice (Rowman & Littlefield).

Weekend Link Roundup (March 2-3, 2019)

March 03, 2019

Cohen_testifyingA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Criminal Justice

There's a gender imbalance in many African-American neighborhoods, and mass incarceration is largely to blame. Mike Maciag reports for Governing magazine.

Economy

"Much has been written about the massive changes that are underway in the nature and future of work, but we still have more questions than answers," writes Ritse Erumi on the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog. "But the fact remains that the scale of this challenge requires new ideas, frameworks...experimentation" — and, not least, "the participation of workers."

Giving

When is giving $100 million not necessarily a brilliant act of generosity? When the giver is a Wall Street hedge fund manager and the recipient is...Harvard University. Larry Edelman reports for the Boston Globe.

Could the next big thing in philanthropy be the use of donor-advised funds to support marginalized groups and causes such as women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and climate funding? Gender lens expert Katherine Pease, managing director and head of impact strategies for Cornerstone Capital, thinks it could be, and tells Philanthropy Women's Kiersten Marek how it might work.

Leadership

The "default assumption" in the social sector "that people with for-profit or academic backgrounds are somehow better leaders in general, even in fields where they have no experience or knowledge," is, well, a questionable assumption. Nonprofit AF's Vu Le explains.

Nonprofits

What will nonprofit organizations look like in 2025? Nine members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council share their thoughts.

Can the experience of one San Francisco nonprofit tell us anything about why nonprofits, generally speaking, have short lives? Courtney E. Martin, the author most recently of The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream, reports for the New York Times

Philanthropy

On the HistPhil blog, Sarah Reckhow (co-author, with Jeffrey Henig and Rebecca Jacobsen, of Outside Money in School Board Elections: The Nationalization of Education Politics) argues that the emerging practice among mega-donors of coordinating their giving and political contributions "is not only problematic for democracy" but also might be "a sub-optimal strategy for mega donors hoping to achieve their policy objectives."

In his latest, Fast Company columnist Ben Paynter explains why "later" is one of the most counter-productive terms in philanthropy.

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Naomi Orensten, the organization's director of research, and Matthew H Leiwant, a former associate manager of research at the organization, wrap up their six-part series on what nonprofit leaders think foundation funders could improve on in their work with a look at the funder-grantee relationship.

Kate Frykberg, a philanthropy advisor based in New Zealand and trustee of the Te Muka Rau Trust, which works to strengthen social cohesion, respectful relationships, and the central place of Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) in that island nation, shares a post on Transparency Talk (the Glasspockets blog) about funder relationships with indigenous communities and the ways in which funders often get them wrong (and right).

Philanthropy 411's Kris Putnam-Walkerly has some good advice for newly minted foundation trustees looking to get off on the right foot.

Productivity/Work-Life Balance

And now that we've taken the plunge, we can declare Bullet Journaling a thing. Beth Kanter refers to it as "a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system." In a guest post on Beth's blog, nonprofit professional Ma’ayan Alexander shares some of the ways the practice has helped her, and how it can benefit any nonprofit professional.

(Photo credit: AP)

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Newsmakers: Jean Case, Author, ‘Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose’

March 01, 2019

Jean Case is a woman on a mission. As the youngest child of a single mom working to raise a family in the small town of Normal, Illinois, and then in the Fort Lauderdale area, Case studied hard and dreamed big — of becoming a lawyer and maybe having a career in politics. But a few years out of college, something new called the Internet beckoned, and she found herself working at the one of the first pure-play online services. In short order, she took a similar position at General Electric and then, in her late twenties, landed a job at another startup, soon to become America Online (AOL), where over the next decade she and her colleagues helped usher in the Internet revolution.

In 1997, Case left AOL and not long after, with her husband Steve, then the chair and CEO of AOL, started the Case Foundation with an eye to "investing in people and ideas that can change the world." As the organization's founding CEO, Jean has helped guide its investments in online platforms like Network or Good, Causes, and MissionFish, and has spearheaded its forays into the still-nascent impact investing field. She currently serves on the boards of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) and the White House Historical Association, and on the advisory boards of the Brain Trust Accelerator Fund, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and Georgetown University's Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. In 2016, she was named chair of the National Geographic Society’s board of trustees, the first female chair in the society’s history.

Case attributes much of her success to her mother, her "first and most enduring role model" and the person who taught her "to take risks, to see possibility, and to be good to others." In her new book,Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose, Case shares the stories of ordinary people who overcame their fear, took a bold risk, and did something extraordinary.

PND spoke with Case in January about the book and the lessons she has learned about success and the people who achieve it.

Headshot_jean_case2Philanthropy News Digest: Jean, I think a lot of people would like to know why you decided to write this book.

Jean Case: Well, the book is premised on research the Case Foundation undertook a number of years ago, where we set out to investigate the core qualities of great entrepreneurs and change makers, past and present, from around the world. And what we discovered was really surprising. When you think about what vaults people to success, it wasn’t genius, or privilege, or wealth. Instead, it boiled down to five things that are present whenever a transformational breakthrough happens. We thought it was interesting research, and we wanted to share it. And we quickly learned that what we were sharing resonated with people in every sector, with leaders of organizations in every sector, from college students to CEOs, in terms of challenging them to think about how they might move something for­ward that might have been languishing, or that they didn’t think they could do.

PND: The transformational breakthroughs you talk about in the book are almost always rooted in the willingness of an individual or an organization to make a big bet, take a risk, and let urgency conquer their fear. Urgency is key in that equation, isn't it?

JC: It is. In fact, I think the role it plays is often underestimated. I like to say that there is no better time to do something than when your back is against the wall, because you have nowhere left to go. It's what Martin Luther King called the "fierce urgency of now," and sometimes it's exactly the motivation we need to get out there and try.

That's really what the book is about. It's a call to people who have an idea about how to make the world better to get out there and try. And it provides a playbook, based on five principles, to help get folks started and to give them a sense of what they need to think about as they try to execute on a big idea.

PND: What do you say to young people who approach you and say, "Jean, I care, I really do, but I've got a lot of student debt, my parents aren't wealthy, housing costs are through the roof, and I just need to find a good job and make some money."

JC: Well, you know, the first chapter of the book is titled "Start Right Where You Are." And it’s meant to push back against the idea that to do something transformational, something that represents a breakthrough, you've got to have everything planned in advance and a detailed roadmap pointing you to where you hope to end up. That's just not what our research shows. It turns out that a lot of people who've gone on to extraordinary success got started in small ways. Yes, they might have had a big idea, but they started right where they were.

For example, I open the book by telling the story of Barbara Van Dahlen. Barbara was a family counselor, a sole practitioner, who was helping families deal with various mental health issues. But it began to dawn on her that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq had created a huge mental health crisis among returning vets, and that the country simply didn’t have the capacity to meet the mental healthcare needs of veterans and their families. So, Barbara started donating an hour a week of her time to these families. And then she started talking to her colleagues, many of whom responded in kind, which then led her to wonder whether she could scale the effort. And that’s what she did, ultimately building a national network of thou­sands and thousands of doctors willing to donate healthcare services — some $25 million worth to date — to veterans and their families. She didn't quit her job, and she didn't wait until she had earned an MBA; she just started where she was and, step by step, took a big idea and moved it forward.

PND: If you had to choose between betting big on a person or betting big on an idea, which would you choose?

JC: I would always choose the person. You know, one of the things I point out in the book is that a lot of people who’ve seen success have had failures along the way. And often, the difference between people who find success and those who don’t is that the former are undaunted by their fears and failures. They've stared them in the eye, and they've pushed past them. It's not that they don't have them. We all have fears, and we all have had failures. But the person who learns to overcome them is more likely to be the person that finds suc­cess.

When I invest in startup companies, for instance, I like to invest in entre­preneurs who may fail, because I know they will take to heart those lessons I talk about in the book and will keep going forward, applying lessons they learned to their next company or startup situation. You know, Einstein said failure is success in progress. Too many of us don't think about it that way, and we need to.

PND: Do you have a favorite big bet, one that grabbed you as you were researching the book and exemplifies the maxim you attribute to Jane Goodall, namely, that every person can make a difference every day.

JC: It's interesting you mention Jane, because for me, she probably emerges as the truly iconic be-fearless story. Here she was, a young British woman with no education but who had a love and passion for animals. So, she gets herself to Africa, where she has the good fortune to meet Louis Leakey, who sends her out into the field, all by her­self, to do her chimpanzee research. She wasn't formally trained, so a lot of her methods were unconventional. But she ended up changing the field of primate research and today is considered to be one of the preeminent animal researchers in the world. She also likes to encourage others to act on their big bet and not be daunted by things they may not have or possess. In Jane's case, it was a degree. And that ultimately worked to her advantage.

PND: There are a lot of great quotations in the book. One of my favorites, credited to Henry Ford, is: "If I’d asked people what they wanted, they'd have said faster horses." He was referring to the importance of not only having a great idea, but also being stubborn enough to ignore the naysayers. Where does that kind of confidence come from?

JC: You know, you have to work at it, and hopefully people who are reading this have someone around them who encourages them when others are trying to rain on their parade. But even if they don't, if they have a big idea they probably also have a gut sense that they are on to something great. I talk in the book about moments in my own life where others were quick to tell me I was crazy and I just had to close my ears and do what I had to do. There are always going to be naysayers, but the person with a big idea knows in his or her gut that they’re on to something. They may have to pivot or change things along the way, but deep down they know that if they just keep going, they will achieve success.

The other thing the Henry Ford quote alludes to is how people with a big idea often have a knack for seeing around corners. They see things coming that others don't, and that gives them the confidence to stick with what they're doing. You know, when we started AOL, only 3 percent of Americans were online, and they were only online for an average of an hour a week. We had many people say to us, Why would I ever need e-mail? Why would my business ever need a website? It's really that ability to see what others can't that helps keep you going.

PND: In terms of practical advice, I really like your idea of pursuing a big bet in "chunks," a step at a time. But I think a lot of people who are passionate about making a difference want to make things happen now and have a hard time accepting the idea that change is a process, that it's more evolutionary than revolutionary. Is that how you see it?

JC: I definitely see it that way, and again I think this is one of those areas where people need to understand that there are small things they can do today, no matter their circumstance, to begin moving their idea forward. There are several tips and techniques in the book designed to help people get started from where they are, which is really key.

PND: Is the framework you lay out in the book translatable to other fields? A lot of foundations were established in perpetuity, and that tends to make the people who run them risk-averse and predisposed to the status quo. Can the Be Fearless framework work in an institutional philanthropy context?

JC: It most certainly can, and thanks to my role as chair of the National Geographic Society, a hundred-and-thirty-year-old organization, I can totally relate to the situation of larger, endowed, legacy organizations and the concern that trying new things can put all that at risk. I tell the story of National Geographic in the book, because it’s a great example of the need for organizations to constantly innovate and iterate if they want to stay relevant. Back when color photo­graphy was a new technology, the publisher and editors of National Geographic, the magazine, decided they wanted to include photographs in each issue, which led some members of the board to re­sign, because they felt that color photography was just a fad and not in keeping with the scientific mission of the National Geographic Society.

Fast forward to 2019 and look where we are — not only are we the most popular organization on Instagram, with over a hundred million followers, but our brand has become synonymous with high-quality color photography. And the society has been able to pull that rabbit out of the hat through each successive stage of technological disruption and change. When cable TV was the hot new medium, we introduced the National Geographic Channel in partnership with Fox. The same is true of social media more broadly, where we have the biggest footprint of any brand in the world. So, although we're an older, legacy organization — I mean, there are still mem­bers of the board related to the founding family — the one thing we are committed to is not settling for the status quo. We believe that if we don't continue to disrupt ourselves and find new ways to be relevant, we will lose our relevance altogether.

PND: At the same time, lots of people, in the U.S. and around the world, feel technology is moving too fast, that it's too disruptive, that we've let the genie out of the bottle and someday, in the not-too-dis­tant future, we're going to regret it. Is that a valid concern?

JC: I wouldn't necessarily say it's a valid concern or that we're going to regret it. But I do think it's accurate to say that the pace of tech­nological change is running faster than ever before in history, and that if we don’t have clear frameworks around ethics, around how to make sure all that change is in service to humanity, we could find ourselves in trouble. But, you know, I'm encouraged by all the people who are looking at this, and the very fact that we're having a dialogue about it. Things have happened quickly on the technology front and have taken us further than perhaps anyone would have guessed, and now we need to catch up and put some frameworks in place to make sure the future lives up to the promise.

PND: As you detail in the book, you didn't have a perfect Ozzie and Harriet upbringing. But you did have a very determined mother, wonderful grandparents, an excellent support system, and ended up living the American dream. Is that dream still achievable for most Americans?

JC: I would like to believe it is, but part of the reason I wrote the book is to sound a sort of clarion call to anyone who is questioning that. I was the youngest child of a single mom. What I had in my early years came to us through the generosity of others. One of the stories I include in the book is the story of Madame C. J. Walker, who was born the daughter of a slave in Louisiana a few years after the end of the Civil War. I mean, talk about starting life with challenges. And yet C.J. Walker built a hair care empire by herself, becoming the first self-made female millionaire and philanthropist in America.

It's stories like Madame Walker's that should inspire everyone who thinks the world has counted them out to say, "I'm not counting myself out. I know there are still opportunities in America for someone like me to do something great." That's why I wrote the book.

PND: What's the best piece of advice you ever received from a mentor?

JC: I'd probably have to say it's, "Don't wait to find the time to do the thing that matters." Life is short, and it's really important to make the time to do the thing that matters. In the book, I talked about how I use my calendar to do that. If I'm really trying to move toward a goal, I want to make sure that this week, every week, I've done something to move me closer to that goal. That won't happen if I just sit around and hope it does. I liter­ally have to put on my calendar as a reminder that I need to work on it. I have to be intentional in writing down what it is I want to achieve this week. It's a great piece of life advice that was shared with me early on, and I swear by it. It's really made a difference for me, and I believe it can make a difference for other people as well.

PND: A final question for you. Here we are a month or so into the new year. As you look ahead to 2019 and beyond, are you an optimist?

JC: I'm a total optimist. I think there’s never been a better time for people who see a way to make a difference in the world to make a difference. They just need to get started. And I'm super-optimistic that more and more people will feel called to do that. Yes, we have challenges, but we also have opportunities, and lots of people who see those opportunities, and I think that's true not just in the United States, but in countries around the world. So, I'm optimistic. And I'm looking forward to what 2019, and the future, brings.

— Mitch Nauffts

Five Elements for Success in Capacity Building

February 28, 2019

Capacity-buildingAsk any nonprofit leader and you're likely to hear that investments in capacity make a meaningful difference to organizations. Research backs this up. A study of Meyer Foundation grants found that investments in capacity produced positive, long-term financial results for grantees, regardless of the type of capacity-building grants provided.

Recent research from Candid and the Council on Foundations shows that from 2011 to 2015, U.S. foundation funding for capacity building and technical assistance targeting beneficiaries outside the U.S. jumped from $555.4 million to $900.1 million — a sizable increase but still less than ten percent of total international giving.

There are certain barriers that may help explain why foundations aren't devoting more funding to capacity building. Nonprofits may be reluctant to share information about their capacity-building needs with funders because they're not sure whether such sharing will have repercussions on future funding decisions. We're also learning that because organizations have unique needs, tailored approaches to capacity building tend to be the most effective, but they also make supporting capacity building more resource-intensive for foundations.

While there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to capacity building, there are commonalities in the approaches that have proven to be successful. Over the years, Community Wealth Partners, a social sector consulting firm, has worked with several foundations and their nonprofit grantees to design, deliver, and evaluate capacity-building programs. Now we're partnering with GrantCraft to publish a series of case studies that provide an in-depth look at five foundations' approaches to supporting nonprofit capacity.

Looking across our work over the years, we have identified five elements we think should be part of any capacity-building effort. We share these recommendations with the hope that foundations factor them into their capacity-building plans and that nonprofits seek out and request this type of partnership from their funders.

1. Commit for the long term. The ability to be successful over the long haul requires ongoing attention to organizational capacity — think of it as a sort of personal healthcare plan for nonprofits.

The Wells Fargo Regional Foundation is one funder that provides long-term support to community development organizations leading neighborhood revitalization initiatives — often involving commitments of eleven years or more. The foundation knows that the work grantees are doing to bring about change at the local level can take decades, and it is committed to ensuring that organizations leading the charge have the skills and financial resources they need to see that change through. To that end, the foundation begins by listening to grantees to understand their needs and then designs and delivers programs to meet those needs as they emerge, including training, coaching, and assistance designed to help grantees build financial sustainability and collaborative capacity.

2. Co-create solutions with stakeholders. A common criticism of capacity building is that it can feel paternalistic. And this is more likely to happen when foundations make assumptions about what grantees need and design services without their input. Capacity building should be grounded in two-way conversation between foundations and nonprofits. Nonprofit leaders know best the context of their work and what types of support are likely to make the biggest difference. Grantmakers should seek out these insights and engage grantees in the design of capacity-building approaches.

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is one funder that has embraced capacity building as a key strategy for strengthening its target communities. As a limited-lifespan foundation committed to spending down its $1.2 billion endowment over twenty years, the foundation initiated its grantmaking activities with a year-long process of listening to nonprofits to understand their needs and work. A key outcome of this outreach was the decision to fund the creation of a center — Co.act Detroit — in southeast Michigan that will provide technical assistance to and foster collaboration among nonprofits in the region. The center opened in November, and as additional programs and services are created, it will work to infuse the same spirit of collaboration in everything from the physical design of the space to the center's services and offerings.

3. Strengthen the ecosystem. Ask any nonprofit or foundation leader about the challenges they encounter in efforts to strengthen capacity, and chances they'll tell you how difficult it can be to find the right service provider. Ideally, all nonprofits should operate in an ecosystem with a diverse network of support available, including consultants and technical assistance providers. Through our work, we are finding that a growing number of foundations, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund among them, are considering how they can best support such an ecosystem as part of their capacity-building strategy.

For more than a decade, the Haas Jr. Fund has invested in supporting nonprofit leadership. When the foundation learned that fundraising challenges were a significant driver of burnout among nonprofit leaders, they convened a range of fundraising, strategy, and financial management consultants to explore what they could do to help build a culture of philanthropy within the nonprofit sector. One outcome of that convening has been increased coordination and collaboration among the service providers who participated — all with an eye to providing better support to the nonprofits with which they work.

4. Support both technical and adaptive capacities. When nonprofits are working to address a complex problem, some of the capacities they need are adaptive. Adaptive capacities are things like the ability to collaborate, to influence others, and to share leadership. At the same time, research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy shows that the areas in which nonprofit leaders say they need the most support are technical capacities — things like fundraising, staffing, and communications. While an organization may not necessarily need to be strong in every aspect of capacity, healthy organizations need a mix of both technical and adaptive capacities, and funders should investigate approaches that take into consideration both types.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore has been working with a network of grantees to build capacities that strengthen their ability to advocate effectively, including capacity in the area of racial equity and inclusion. That network, KIDS COUNT, comprises fifty-three state-based child advocacy organizations dedicated to ensuring that all children are raised in stable families, supportive communities, and economically secure environments.

Casey's engagement with grantees starts with a capacity assessment. Data from the assessment show the extent to which technical and adaptive capacities are linked across the network. For example, the data may show that strategic leadership capacity is a predictor of whether organizations are strong in other areas, such as advocacy capacity and racial equity and inclusion capacity. The data also show that when investing in advocacy capacity, it's important to invest in their communications capacity as well.

5. Ground capacity building in equity. The Kresge Foundation delivers capacity-building programs focusing specifically on leadership development through a racial-equity lens. For the foundation, a key strategy for achieving equitable outcomes in communities across America is investing in the talent and leadership capacity of its grantees.

Kresge has long recognized that many grantees working to advance equitable outcomes in their communities were not receiving support targeted on strengthening their own racial equity capacity. In response, the foundation launched a pilot program, Fostering Urban Equitable Leader (FUEL), through which it formed partnerships with six service providers and tasked them with providing a range of services to grantees that were critical to advancing racial equity inside organizations and, at the same time, aligned with their individual needs.

Building a strong foundation for successful capacity-building partnerships

As the case study series demonstrates, nonprofits have diverse needs when it comes to capacity building, and there can be as many approaches to building capacity as there are foundations supporting it. Our experience shows that paying attention to these five elements will help ensure that nonprofits and foundations are forming capacity-building partnerships that achieve the desired results.

Headshot_taylor_bartcszakCarla Taylor is director of strategic capacity-building services at Community Wealth Partners (@WeDreamForward). Taylor has twenty years of experience developing and managing capacity-building initiatives that help accelerate results for social sector organizations. With a focus on advancing equity, her core areas of expertise include multi-sector collaboration, place-based strategies, results-based leadership, strategic learning, meeting design and facilitation, program design and management, and stakeholder engagement.

Lori Bartczak (@lbartczak) serves as Community Wealth Partners’ (@WeDreamForward) senior director of knowledge and content, overseeing the firm’s content strategy, development, and distribution. In that role, Bartczak identifies compelling topics and themes, designs original research and learning experiences to advance them, and creates and disseminates content that assists CWP clients and the sector more broadly in advancing their missions. 

Board Diversity: Moving From Awareness to Action

February 26, 2019

Board-diversity-bubbleThe lack of board diversity in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors is hardly news. And a growing body of reports, articles, and data clearly shows that boards not only are not diverse, they're not even moving in that direction. Indeed, an annual survey of boards of directors of nonprofit organizations published by BoardSource found that 84 percent of board members are white, while 27 percent of boards surveyed reported not having a single member of color.

The survey conducted by my own firm, Koya Leadership Partners, affirms these trends. Of the hundred-plus boards we surveyed, 68 percent of all board members identified as white, while just 24 percent identified as a person of color. We wanted to understand why boards aren't changing, so we decided to ask.

Here's what we learned: 96 percent of boards believe that diversifying the board or executive committee is a key objective, but only 24 percent have taken steps to increase diversity. Clearly, there is a serious gap between intention and action.

Alarmingly, our survey found that most boards aren't even taking simple steps to increase inclusion and advance diversity such as developing a written diversity and inclusion statement, with only 11 percent of the boards we surveyed saying they had done so. Another key finding was related to board recruitment, with effective recruitment strategies emerging as a serious challenge for boards, which often struggle to fill board seats with candidates who contribute to the overall board diversity.

The good news? Closing the diversity gap is far from impossible. In fact, there are a number of steps any board can take, starting now, that will help move it toward real diversity and inclusion. Here are four:

1. Assess your own board through the lens of diversity. If your board has never ordered up a self-assessment, now is the time. Board assessments are an excellent first step to understanding the various talents, skills, perspectives, and experiences board members bring to table and are invaluable in helping board and senior leadership identify what is missing. You can find useful examples of a board matrix online, or you can make one of your own that lists each board member next to their demographic characteristics, experience, skills, and relevant attributes. Many boards find this to be a useful exercise that helps everyone better understand who and what is represented on the board, as well as who and what is not.

2. Recognize that becoming more diverse and inclusive requires culture change. Adding new board members who bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives is critical. But it's not enough. Many boards will also need to undergo a more holistic cultural change process that includes honest assessment, education, and a commitment to changing every aspect of board culture so that it truly embraces inclusivity.

3. Commit to action and create accountability. Many boards talk about diversity and take some steps in that direction, but then lose steam. If diversity is truly important to your board, make sure it is an articulated goal, and put people in charge of delivering results. Keep the goal front and center through regular progress reports, just as you would any other board activity. Some boards even create a diversity and inclusion committee and task it with formulating and achieving key objectives. As management guru Peter Drucker famously said: "You can't manage what you can't measure" — meaning you're unlikely to achieve your goals if you're not defining what success looks like and measuring progress toward it.

4. Expand your recruiting circle. Board recruiting is an area ripe for improvement. Most boards recruit through the social networks of their members, which means new board members are likely to be a lot like current your board members in terms of race, socioeconomic status, and other demographic characteristics. If boards are really serious about diversity, they need to look beyond the personal networks of their members. The good news? There are a number of ways to do this, including leveraging the knowledge and networks of your staff. Local and regional resources such as community foundations, Chambers of Commerce, and faith communities also present opportunities for expanded networks and contacts.

There's no doubt that a diverse board of directors can bring real and significant benefits to an organization and its stakeholders. But good intentions aren't enough. When it comes to diversity, boards must move from intention to measurable action. The suggestions above will help you get moving.

Headshot_Molly Brennan_KoyaMolly Brennan is a founding partner at executive search firm Koya Leadership Partners, where her areas of focus include leadership, retention, and equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. Widely quoted and published in leading publications, Brennan recently authored a white paper, "The Governance Gap: Examining Diversity and Equity on Nonprofit Boards of Directors." For more tips from Molly, check out MyCareer@PND.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 23-24, 2019)

February 24, 2019

Gw-life-mask-frontA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Democracy

"The key to improving the voting process," writes Adam Ambrogi, irector of the Elections Program at the Democracy Fund, "is straightforward: expand accessibility while also prioritizing security."

Giving

Have women's motivations for giving changed over time? Andrea Pactor, interim director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy; Hillary Person, a former development director at the Pensacola State College Foundation; and Dyan Sublett, president of the MLK Community Health Foundation, take a look at the data.

Governance

On the NCRP blog, Rick Moyers, former vice president of programs and communications at the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and a board member at BoardSource, reminds readers that while "[d]iversity is only one aspect of a larger conversation about equity and power," many boards aren’t ready to have that conversation. With that in mind, there are four things senior leadership should look for to determine whether their board is ready for deeper work in pursuit of equity.

International Affairs/Development

GiveWell has announced a call fro proposals from outstanding organizations operating in Southeast Asia and, in partnership with Affinity Impact, a social impact initiative founded by the children of a Taiwanese entrepreneur, will  provide three grants — one of $250,000, and two $25,000 grants — to organizations that are operating programs in global health and development in any of the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam. More details here.

Philanthropy

In an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Allison Powell, Willa Seldon, and Nidhi Sahni argue that "historic growth in wealth globally and the rise of new philanthropists threaten the relevance of institutional philanthropy — while creating new opportunities for impact and influence."

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Naomi Orenstein, CEP's director of research, and Matthew H Leiwant, a former associate manager of research at the organization, share some suggestions for funders interested in helping their grantees, beyond the grant, with non-financial support.

Then again, says Nonprofit AF's Vu Le, sometimes the best thing donors can do to advance social justice is to just write a check.

In a piece on the foundation's website, MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch, who will be stepping down from her position later this year, reflects on the Foundation’s approach to work in our hometown, the nonprofit organizations we support, and their creative and effective efforts make the Chicago region a better place to live, work, and learn for everyone.

In a post on his blog, veteran philanthropy advisor Richard Marker explains the thinking behind the (modest) re-branding of his firm.

Social Change

Reflecting on Jo Freeman's 1970 essay "The Tyranny of Structurelessness," Rhodri Davies, head of policy at the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) argues on the HistPhil blog that the "power" imbalance between participants in a group is a helpful reminder for today's social movement organizers and their funders. And while "the offline power dynamics between members of a group may still have a determinate impact on their position in the online network...in the context of digitally networked movements, another dimension of power also emerges: namely, control of the platform on which the network operates." 

Transparency

On the Glasspockets blog, our colleague Janet Camarena chats with Maya Winkelstein, executive director of the Open Road Alliance, about the critical role transparency play in the initiative's philanthropic efforts.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Insights for U.S. Nonprofits From the Russia Donors Forum Conference

February 17, 2019

Russia_donors_forumLast fall, I was invited to speak about collaboration for social impact and corporate volunteerism at the annual Russia Donors Forum conference in Moscow. The conference brings together philanthropy and corporate social responsibility professionals from foundations, corporations, and nonprofits to share insights and lessons about how non-financial resources can support philanthropic activity. The invitation stemmed from my work with Global Impact, a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on growing global philanthropy to help the world's most vulnerable people, and my experience there helped broaden my perspective on the international philanthropic sector and the work we do.

My stay in Moscow was eye-opening. Not only did I gain valuable insights into current trends in Russian philanthropy, I also learned how U.S.-based nonprofits can engage with individuals and nonprofits operating within the ever-evolving international philanthropic space. In advance of my trip, I reviewed recent research and reporting on the state of Russian philanthropy, including the 2018 Giving Global Matrix: Tax, Fiduciary and Philanthropic Requirements developed by my organization in partnership with KPMG. The report highlights the complex and varied tax laws that incentivize or disincentivize philanthropic giving in sixty countries around the world, including Russia, and also addresses ten questions designed to shed light on the philanthropic climate in a particular country. Many of the insights from my time in Russia confirmed the findings captured in the report — namely, that a generally supportive climate for philanthropy does, in fact, exist there. Moreover, my conversations and interactions with professionals at the conference deepened my understanding of the international philanthropic sector, as well as how nonprofit organizations and corporations are addressing areas of critical importance through the commitment of both financial and non-financial resources.

In Moscow, I was greeted by a vibrant network of social sector professionals working to achieve greater impact, improve platforms and methods of measurement and evaluation, and address causes and focus areas relevant to their specific country context. And I was reminded repeatedly how important it is for us to follow the lead of country-specific philanthropic communities in providing support and sharing best practices.

There are people more qualified than I am who can speak to the state of philanthropy in Russia, and my intention here is not to offer sweeping or prescriptive statements; rather, it's to offer the perspective of a U.S.-based nonprofit professional who believes in the work we do and would like to see it achieve greater reach and impact. Recognizing the importance of locally defined philanthropic efforts are a key aspect of that. The international philanthropic community can support its peers in other countries by lifting up and providing resources in support of their objectives, as well as sharing best practices — whether they relate to building an effective case for support, effectively communicating to senior corporate leaders the return on investment of volunteerism, or developing useful and efficient processes for measurement and evaluation.

Some of that can be done through training materials or initiatives, such as IMPACT2030, which defines itself as "a private sector-led initiative that, in collaboration with the United Nations, civil society, academia and other stakeholders, is leveraging human capital investments through employee volunteer programs to advance the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)." At conferences and in one-on-one meetings, we often talk about breaking down silos and how that can help make us more efficient and effective. It's a concept I believe needs to be applied more broadly in terms of breaking out of our regional silos. There are learnings from the philanthropic and social sectors in the U.S. that could be replicated in Russia (and other countries); and there are learnings from Russia (and other countries) that would be of interest to those of us in the U.S. As funding streams are further disrupted, the global philanthropic community needs to be better informed about global trends — who is investing, how donors worldwide are identifying and approaching opportunities, where nonprofits are operating, and where synergies may lie.

As we look to the future, I encourage U.S.-based nonprofits to consider how they are already connected to nonprofits in other countries and regions of the globe, as well as how they might connect more often — and in more meaningful ways. The SDGs are one mechanism for doing so. Events and conferences that attract increasingly diverse audiences are another and afford the opportunity to make or deepen authentic connections with others doing similar work in different contexts.

More broadly, we need to think creatively about how we partner and maintain an open dialogue with our peers in other countries; explore less-obvious connections and recognize that while we all work within our own unique context, there is transferable knowledge, including successes and failures, to be shared; and adopt a more global perspective in terms of sourcing ideas and research. There are lessons to be learned from the philanthropic efforts of communities in other countries and regions of the world, and not to take advantage of them fully would be a disservice to us all.

Headshot_samantha_duceySamantha Ducey is director of partner solutions at Global Impact, a leading U.S.-based nonprofit working to build resources and partnerships for the world’s most vulnerable people

My Way, Your Way, and the Highway

February 14, 2019

My way orWorking on a cause or leading a movement today means managing a team of people whose ages, backgrounds, work styles, expertise levels, and personality traits can be all over the place. And the backgrounds of your donors and stakeholders can be just as varied. Sooner or later, it raises the question: Are you prepared to manage the inevitable (though often hidden) tension that arises between young and old, new and experienced, impetuous and measured?

I've heard lots of stories in which a seasoned nonprofit veteran sees a new recruit to the cause begin to get attention for her ideas and becomes disgruntled, even resentful, while the new hire just thinks the more experienced colleague is being unreasonable and stubborn. Meanwhile, the tension between them mounts, with each wishing the other would just go away.

The same kind of tension can occur between organizations, creating a monumental stumbling block to significant, sustainable change as donors and supporters sort themselves into opposing camps.

That's more than a shame. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2019, "The world faced a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges in 2018. From climate change and slowing global growth to economic inequality, we will struggle if we do not work together in the face of these simultaneous challenges."

In other words, if we expect to make any progress on the urgent challenges at hand, it's imperative that we all do what we can to minimize this kind of tension.

I know, it sounds difficult. But it's not; it just requires a shift in mindset. You could, for example:

  • Reach out to organizations or individuals you've never considered as a potential partner and initiate a conversation around a mutual purpose or shared goals related to something you have in common.
  • Look to form partnerships that actively benefit constituents who are undeserved, or not served at all.
  • Create joint ventures and co-marketing opportunities that focus donors' attention on a single objective, rather than distracting them with multiple appeals and calls to action.

How and Why It Works

Consider the World Economic Forum's System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Food. Through the initiative, WEF hopes to facilitate the creation of "inclusive, sustainable, efficient, and nutritious food systems through market-based action and collaboration in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals." Among other things, the initiative hopes to improve the ways food is tracked from where it's grown to where it is consumed (a process known as "traceability"). For traceability to work, however, unprecedented collaboration involving governments, tech companies, agribusinesses, retailers, food producers, and civil society leaders will have to take place and become the norm.

One key to success will be the reception afforded new entrants and players in already established food production and distribution systems.

Remember how I started this post? 

  • Will new concepts and challenges to current approaches be openly and honestly debated and weighed?
  • Have "safe places" been established for the deliberate, authentic sharing of knowledge?
  • Will stakeholders grant the space, time, resources, and tolerance for risk that are needed for real, sustainable innovation to take place?

In my opinion, the real issue hampering collaborations today arises from the very human desire each of us harbors to be the person who solves or dramatically advances an issue. Irony notwithstanding, that impulse is perhaps the biggest obstacle to any organization or group of people being real drivers of change.

Getting In Our Own Way

In a recent post here on PhilanTopic, I wrote about how we, as representatives of our organizations, want people to keep our nonprofits top-of-mind and appreciate us for the work we do, but that such a mindset runs counter to how people in real life actually engage with a cause, in that it tends to make us, rather than the people we want to help, the focus of attention.

Similarly, when we choose to partner with other organizations, it's often because we're interested in having more people learn how great our organization is. From annual reports that lack any discussion about things that failed to inauthentic marketing language, the message for donors is predictable: Our organization is the best positioned to solve a particular problem, and we’re working harder than anyone else to do so.

Such a mindset comes at a huge cost: over time, we lose sight of the bigger goal and shut ourselves off from new ideas that could help us address the problems we all want to fix.

Remember that the next time you're in a meeting and the discussion starts to pit a seasoned veteran against a new person, the way it’s always been done against the “let’s think different” approach, the way your organization does things against the way a partner does things. Only by recognizing that we all have biases and acknowledging that neither we nor our organization have a monopoly on good ideas can we hope to advance meaningful and lasting social change. It may not be easy, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

What's New at Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar) — February 2019

February 13, 2019

Candid logoHave you heard? Foundation Center and GuideStar have joined forces to become a single nonprofit organization, Candid. Together, we are dedicated to sharing information and insights that can fuel deeper impact. Candid will allow us to combine our knowledge and passions, and to do more than we could ever do apart. And the work continues! Here are some highlights of what we have been working on to start the new year.

Projects/Training Launched

  • New research supports: (1) donors give more to transparent nonprofits, and (2) transparent organizations tend to be stronger organizations. The research, recently published in the Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance, analyzed more than 6,300 nonprofits in the GuideStar database. They found that, as a group, nonprofits that earned a GuideStar Seal of Transparency averaged 53 percent more in contributions the following year compared to organizations that didn’t earn a Seal.
  • In partnership with the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, we've officially launched Funding for Early Childhood Care and Education, a joint effort to map the last ten years of philanthropic giving around family engagement and professional development. Foundation Center Midwest is partnering with the United Black Fund and the Cleveland History Center at the Western Reserve Historical Society to present The Soul of Philanthropy: Reframed & Exhibited.
  • We launched a new CF Insights research brief that looks at which community foundations are accepting donations of cryptocurrency, the challenges they've faced, and the platforms they use.
  • Glasspockets has unveiled a new transparency indicator that highlights whether foundations are publicly sharing their values or have policies that commit them to working transparently. The new "Transparency Values/Policy" indicator can be found on the Who Has Glass Pockets? page.
  • We've added a new infographic to the Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy site. Learn more on voting districts and the bipartisan divide on immigration issues.
  • In January, Foundation Center Midwest hosted an event in partnership with local arts stakeholders at which Foundation Center Midwest director Teleangé Thomas presented to a soldout room of young and emerging creative professionals on how Foundation Center can help them find funding with Foundation Directory Online and Foundation Grants to Individuals Online.
  • Also in January, Foundation Center Midwest hosted the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program's fundraising workshop, a full-day contract training for twenty-five "dreamers" working in the social justice and entrepreneurship space.
  • Foundation Center West successfully completed its contract training with the Creative Work Fund (CWF), a program of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund that is generously supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The training included a series of informational webinars and a convening around Mastering Collaboration featuring successful past CWF grantees and their grant award-winning artist + nonprofit collaborations.
  • Foundation Center West also completed two fund development workshop series for the San Francisco City and County Department of Children, Youth and their Families (DCYF). The series consists of three workshops each: fundraising planning; crafting a competitive letter of intent; and project budgets.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • Our offices in DC, Cleveland, New York, and San Francisco will host three-day proposal writing boot camps for the public in March and April. On average, Proposal Writing Boot Camp participants reported a 75 percent increase in their confidence after the session.
  • March 26: The "All Together Now: Conversations in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” series continues. During a program titled "Skills for Overcoming Burnout – Refueling the Fire," our partners at Rhiza Collective will share proven methods of self- and collective care. Learn how stress and trauma impact individuals and teams, and get strategies to address conflicts and resolve tensions.
  • We will travel to Miami in March to facilitate a funding panel, "Funding Collaborations and Building Ecosystems: A Grantmaker Meets the Changemaker Panel Discussion," in partnership with the Miami Children's Trust and Miami Dade Public Library System.
  • We've updated our self-paced e-learning courses, including "How to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships with Funders," "How to Use Data to Raise More Money from Corporations," and "How to Start a Major Gifts Program."
  • February 15: Foundation Center Midwest will be moderating a program in partnership with AFP Greater Cleveland, "Donor-Advised Funds: How to Find and Secure Support," featuring representatives from the Cleveland Foundation, Glenmede, and Fidelity. The program is a shared-cost contract program and, with a hundred attendees, is sold out.
  • The second webinar and watch party presented as part of Foundation Center West's California Wellness: Strengthening California Nonprofits grant will happen on February 27: 7 Lessons Learned from Nonprofit Leaders with Sean Kosofsky. In addition, five California Funding Information Network partners — Cal State University - Chico; the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at John F. Kennedy University; Santa Barbara Public Library; Santa Monica Public Library; Pasadena Public Library — and one lapsed FIN, Cal State University - Fresno, have signed up to host watch parties and engage in a facilitated community discussion post-webinar.
  • GuideStar is providing nonprofit data to more people than ever before and in the last year recorded its 10 millionth unique visitor at GuideStar.org!
  • We're thrilled to announce that more than 66,000 nonprofit organizations have added information to their GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles, thereby earning a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum GuideStar Seal of Transparency.
  • More than 70,000 university students and faculty in California now have access to GuideStar Pro resources for academic purposes thanks to UC Irvine and UC Berkley. Both colleges signed on to become GuideStar Library Services clients, providing institution-wide IP access to the GuideStar database.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 458,072 new grants added to Foundation Maps in January, of which 2,960 grants were made to 1,836 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Foundation Directory Online now includes more than 14 million grants. In the new My FDO, new tools can help you manage your prospects like a pro.
  • New data sharing partners: Alaska Children's Trust, Alaska Community Foundation, Apex Foundation, Community Foundation of Snohomish County, Delta Dental Plan of Colorado Foundation, Inc., The Funding Network, George Alexander Foundation, John & Denise Graves Foundation, JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Kitsap Community Foundation, Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation, Melbourne Women's Fund, Montana Healthcare Foundation, Raynier Institute and Foundation, Satterberg Foundation, Thrivent Foundation, United Way of Pierce County, Westpac Foundation, and Sherman and Marjorie Zeigler Foundation. Tell your story through data and help us communicate philanthropy's contribution to creating a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

Data Spotlight

  • Since 2006, private foundations in the U.S. have made grants of more than $7 billion to improve early childhood care and education, reflecting a deep commitment to the importance of supporting children and their families during a critical developmental period in their lives.
  • Total GrantSpace sessions for January 2019 exceeded 195,000.
  • As of November 2018, our Online Librarian service had reached its 2018 goal of serving more than 130,000 people.
  • We recorded nearly 30,000 registrations for our online programming in 2018.
  • We exceeded our goal for in-person attendance to our classes, with more than 16,000 attendees in 2018.
  • A five-year trends analysis of the largest 1,000 U.S. foundations demonstrates that foundations contributed an average $150.4 million a year specifically for disasters. Funding spiked in 2014 due to large grants for the Ebola outbreak, then declined over the next two years. Learn more about these trends at foundationcenter.org.
  • We completed custom data searches for Grantmakers in the Arts, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, McKinsey, the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers, the City of Phoenix,the City and County of San Francisco, Skidmore College, TCC Group, the University of San Diego, and GiveWell.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I’ll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Candid.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 9-10, 2019)

February 10, 2019

Homepage-large-fc-and-gs-are-candid_tilemediumA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

"Someday, perhaps, an entire nation could be powered by renewable energy, but that day is too far off to deal with the climate threat," say Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist in a new book called called A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow. Instead, Goldstein and Qvist tell Marc Gunther, countries should be looking to nuclear as the short-term answer to the problem. For many in the environmental community, that is a non-starter. Gunther explores the dilemma.

Governance

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kim Williams-Pulfer, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, shares some thoughts on nonprofit boards and the diversity imperative.

International Affairs/Development

On the OECD Development Matters site, Benjamin Bellegy, executive director of the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), shares his thoughts on how philanthropy can best contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Journalism/Media

Journalism and the news media in the U.S. are in trouble, the traditional business model for news threatened with extinction by the consolidation of eyeballs and ad dollars on a few mega-platforms. Forbes contributor Michael Posner looks at the conclusions of a new report funded by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy and finds that while the report diagnoses the problem well, "its recommendations do not go far enough."

Nonprofits

A new report from the Building Movement Project, a nonprofit research group, finds that women of color in the nonprofit sector face are twice as likely to be discriminated against than white men, more likely to be overlooked for advancement than any other demographic group, and, come review time, are more often ignored or subject to scrutiny in ways that appear directly related their minority status. Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

Social good organizations that don't gather and pay attention to feedback from their constituents are passing up a golden opportunity to improve their services and offerings, write Fay Twersky, director of effective philanthropy at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Fred Reichheld, a fellow at Bain & Company and creator of the Net Promoter System®, in the Harvard Business Review. Fortunately, there are a growing number of tools out there, including something called Listen for Good (L4G), which is based on Reichheld's Net Promoter System, that make it easier than ever to do so.

In an era in which data is "revered," Paul Jolly, a fundraiser, creativity coach, and poet, reminds us on the GuideStar blog that "data does not guarantee good strategy. Data simply answers questions. And asking the right questions requires wisdom and curiosity."

Philanthropy

Amanda L. Gordon, who reports on wealth and philanthropy for Bloomberg, asks: What does it mean to be a billionaire in an age when there have never been so many? The answer is entirely unclear. 

On the Project Syndicate site, Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and founder of the nonprofit organization The Life You Can Save, suggests that the Sackler family, the family behind the pharmaceutical company that has fueled America's opioid crisis, should stop using its wealth to promote the arts and start supporting, on the same scale as their arts philanthropy, groups that reduce suffering anywhere in the world.

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fidelity Charitable's Pam Norley and Elaine Martyn argue that donors with donor-advised funds "are poised to advance an emerging practice in philanthropy: listening to the organizations and people they are trying to help." But, they add, to "listen well, they will need the help of nonprofits they fund."

Science/Technology

Privacy in the twenty-first century is a complicated and often contested issue, writes Wilneida Negrón, a technology fellow in the Gender, Racial and Ethic Justice program at the Ford Foundation. Is it a human right? How much of it are we willing to give up in exchange for convenience or public safety? Should we expect the tech industry to self-regulate, or should government step in? All good questions, with no easy answers in sight. But there are things, says Negrón, that each of us can do "to build public support for laws, regulations, and interventions to promote privacy — and to ensure that the voices of the people and communities most affected are taken into account."

Social Good

As you're probably heard, Foundation Center and GuideStar have joined forces to become Candid. In this post, Brad Smith and Jacob Harold, president and executive vice president of the new entity, explain why it makes sense at this moment in time for the two organizations to combine their talent, technology, data, and leadership teams to help transform the work of social good. And in this post, Jen Bokoff, director of stakeholder engagement at Candid, and Gabe Cohen, senior director of marketing and communications, explain what the change means for users of GuideStar and Foundation Center products and services — over the next few months and in the years to come. 

Tax Policy

For Democrats, taxing the wealthy seems like a good first step to addressing  the urgent social and environmental challenges we face as a country. But it's not as easy as it might seem and, as always, the devil is in the details. Paul Sullivan reports for the New York Times.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Newsmaker: Cathy Cha, President, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

February 07, 2019

Cathy Cha, who officially stepped into the role of president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in January, has long worked to advance new models for how foundations can collaborate with advocates, communities, and government to achieve greater impact. Cha joined the Haas, Jr. Fund in 2003 as a program officer. From 2009 to 2016, she managed its immigrant rights >portfolio, leading efforts to bring together funders and local leaders to strengthen the immigration movement in California. For the past two years, Cha served as vice president of programs at the Fund.

Cha co-created and led the California Civic Participation Funders, an innovative funder collaborative that is supporting grassroots efforts across California to increase civic participation and voting among immigrants, African Americans, and other underrepresented populations. She also worked with legal service providers and funder partners to launch the New Americans Campaign, which has helped more than 370,000 legal permanent residents in eighteen cities become U.S. citizens, and helped jumpstart efforts to create the African American Civic Engagement Project, an alliance of community leaders, funders, and local groups working to empower African-American communities.

PND asked Cha about new efforts at the fund, its priorities for 2019, and the evolving role of philanthropy in bringing about a more just and equal society.

Headshot_Cathy_ChaPhilanthropy News Digest: Your appointment to the top job at the fund was announced in January 2017, and you're stepping into the shoes of Ira S. Hirschfield, who led the fund for twenty-eight years. What did you do to prepare during the two-year transition period? And what was the most important thing you learned from Ira?

Cathy Cha: One of Ira's greatest contributions was the way he encouraged the fund's board, staff, and grantees to really dream about how to have more impact in the world. That dare-to-dream philosophy has allowed us and our partners to reach ambitious goals — from achieving marriage equality to making California the most immigrant-affirming state in the country.

Today, the fund remains committed to supporting people's best aspirations of what's possible for their communities. In 2018, we co-launched the California Campus Catalyst Fund with a group of undocumented student advocates and community experts. With investment from thirteen funders, we're now supporting thirty-two urban, suburban, and rural public college and university campuses across the state to significantly expand legal and other support services for undocumented students and their families at a time of incredible need. It's a great example of how philanthropy can work with community partners to catalyze and support solutions that make a real difference.

PND: Over the last two years, the fund managed an organizational transition that included the expansion of the board to include members of the next generation of the Haas family and the hiring of new staff at both the program and senior leadership levels. What was the overarching strategy behind those moves, and what kind of changes do you hope they lead to?

CC: During this transition, we were intentional about addressing a couple of key questions. How can we keep this organization relevant and responsive in a volatile and changing environment? And how can we set ourselves up to write a bold new chapter in the Haas, Jr. Fund's work? We want to be positioned for bigger impact to meet today's and tomorrow's challenges. We're building a leadership and staff team that represents and affirms the fund's enduring values. Our new board members are committed to building on their grandparents' legacy, and they bring new and valuable perspectives to the fund's work. We have staff members who have lived the immigrant experience, people who are LGBT, and individuals who are the first in their families to go to college. Whether I'm working with our board or the staff, I see a team with deep connections to the communities and the issues we care about, a profound belief in civil rights values and leveling the playing field, and an abiding commitment to excellence and progress. That gives me real hope and confidence for the future.

PND: In January you said you would "be launching a process in the weeks ahead to explore how the fund and our partners can strengthen our impact." What can you tell us about that process?

CC: These are extremely trying times for our country. Many communities we care about are feeling threatened and vulnerable. Given the challenges of this moment, as well as the opportunities that come with the changes we've experienced at the fund, it's an opportune time for us to think creatively about how we can have more impact.

Like any other foundation, we are always evaluating how we can do a better job. But in the coming months, we want to take some time to think in new ways about how to make sure we're doing everything we can to make a positive difference and up our game. That's going to mean reflecting on some of the lessons from our recent work, weighing where we've made mistakes and why, and understanding how we can maximize the huge potential of our staff and our nonprofit, government, and business partners to make the world a better, fairer place.

PND: What is your top priority in 2019?

CC: I'll share two key priorities. The first is to work with our board and staff so that we're clearer on how the fund will have continued impact. The second is to make sure we're moving full speed ahead with our work at a time when fundamental rights and opportunities hang in the balance. That's why we're investing in the drive for equal civil rights protections for LGBT Americans. It's why we're working with the San Francisco Unified School District to help all children reach their potential. And it's why we're supporting new racial equity work and helping movement nonprofits strengthen their leadership and their ability to raise the resources they need to make a difference. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can in 2019 to stand up for the idea that this is a better nation when everyone has a chance to thrive.

PND: In addition to leading the fund's immigrant rights grantmaking, you served on the board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) for seven years, including two years as co-chair. Are grantmakers in the field of immigrant rights more open to collaboration today than they were, say, a decade ago, and if so, why? Do you think that's the case in other fields as well?

CC: GCIR has been at the leading edge in facilitating funder collaboration to get better results. It's part of a sea change over the last decade in philanthropy's approach to working together. No matter the size of our grantmaking budgets, there's a growing understanding that we can't solve big, intractable problems alone. We're more effective when we form strategic partnerships and check our institutional egos at the door.

You only need to look at the incredible surge in voter turnout in Orange County last November, particularly in communities of color, to see how funder collaboration pays off. We've been working with other funders and local partners for years — in Orange County and other parts of California — to build power and voice in low-income communities. Those partnerships are starting to deliver real results. The Haas, Jr. Fund could have invested in this work on our own, but we're achieving so much more by teaming up with our funder partners.

PND: In July 2017, you wrote in a blog post, "Why I am Hopeful," that "[t]he bottom line is that 'We the People' need to stand up and use our voices — and our votes — to make a difference...and it will require deep investments in community organizing, civic participation, movement-building, and leadership development." Are you more hopeful today? Are you seeing those kinds of philanthropic investments at the levels needed?

CC: The results of the November 2018 elections make me more hopeful. We had record numbers of women, LGBT candidates, and people of color running for office in California and nationally. We had millennials voting in record numbers. And in many communities, it was low-income voters and voters of color who put their favored candidates or issues over the top. A lot of that is the result of local groups doing the hard work of organizing, lifting up community leaders, and educating people about important policy issues.

We have a long way to go, but we're finally starting to see the electorate and our elected leadership moving in the direction where they resemble the larger population, and that's great for our democracy. But it's never a given that this kind of progress will continue or that we won't backtrack. There are real barriers in the way of broader participation for many communities, and voter disenfranchisement is real. No matter what issues our foundations are focused on, we can go a long way to achieving the goal of a fairer, more equal, more representative society if we invest in the work of organizing and voting.

PND: Before joining the fund, you worked on issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, workforce development, and community development. From your perspective, what, if we're able to achieve it, would "a society that supports, respects, and values the contributions of all people" look like?

CC: When I drop off my six-year-old daughter at school in the morning, I see all these beautiful kids of different races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and talents. I look at those little faces and I wish every one of those kids, along with every other child across this country, got a fair shot at reaching their full potential. That's one way to measure how we're doing when it comes to creating a more just and equal society. What would it look like to give every child and every person an equitable chance at opportunity?

Looking at it that way can take us out of our silos and help us see how our work connects across issues and communities. In California's K-12 public schools, more than half of all students are Latino. So you can't really look at education in California without looking simultaneously at immigration. And what about those students who are African American, or LGBT, or from homes where parents are struggling to get by? It's hard to separate what's happening in our schools from all the other things happening in kids' lives. All these issues are interconnected, and we will have greater impact to the extent that we think holistically about how to solve problems and spur real change.

PND: The lack of diversity in leadership positions within the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors is a continuing topic of discussion. What needs to happen for that to change?

CC: On my first day in my new role at the fund, a colleague told me that only 1.3 percent of foundations are led by API (Asian Pacific Islander) women. That really surprised me. So did the fact that only around 10 percent of foundation CEOs are people of color. Philanthropy clearly has a ways to go before we can say our field is truly representative of our society.

That said, I am starting to see some positive movement. I think the path to continued progress lies in changing how philanthropy values talent and experience. Traditionally, the philanthropic field has valued academics with PhDs and those from elite educational backgrounds. But increasingly, I think philanthropy is recognizing what leaders bring to a foundation when they are closer to communities and community issues. There is a trend toward valuing lived experience. At the Haas, Jr. Fund and other foundations, you increasingly see staff who have experienced firsthand some of the fundamental inequities in our society. And you see foundations placing a real value on their staff's ability to connect and partner with people across races and cultures, whether in our local communities or around our interconnected world. Philanthropy is more effective when leaders and staff reflect — and deeply understand — the communities at the heart of our work.

Kyoko Uchida

Facing the Future Together

February 05, 2019

Candid_yellowThe social sector is big. It's essential. It's complex. For a combined 85 years, Foundation Center and GuideStar have helped people make sense of that complexity.

But the world faces growing challenges: polarization, climate change, technological revolution, and poverty and inequality. Foundation Center and GuideStar must do more to support the social sector.

That's why we are combining our talent, technology, data, and leadership to become a new organization, Candid. There is so much more we can do together:

  • We can offer a 360-degree view of the work of social good — who's doing what, where, on the issues that matter to people around the world.
  • We can bring the nonprofit sector closer to having common profiles for every organization and in doing so promote more efficient systems for raising funds, managing grants and donations, and measuring impact
  • We can offer insights that were never before possible and share those insights in clear and actionable ways.
  • We can link the learning of changemakers around the world so they can work smarter, together.

Combining two historic organizations — with tools used by millions of people across hundreds of platforms — will be challenging, to say the least. Over the next several years, we will be weaving together technology systems, petabytes of data and content, dozens of products and services, and, most importantly, the deep knowledge and experience of more than 200 staff. But we are confident we can do it.

Candid_illustration_philantopic-large
To guide this transition, we will aspire to the ideal embodied in our new name. The word candid speaks to the roots of Foundation Center and GuideStar, organizations born out of the need to provide fair, accurate, and objective information about foundations and nonprofits. It also informs how we will work, speaking to our future imperative of continuing to earn our stakeholders' trust in an information-wary world. To succeed, we will need to be honest about what works, what doesn't, what we know, and what we still need to figure out. In this vein, as Candid, we will use transparency as a guiding value in our communication with you.

Brad_jacob_compTomorrow two of our colleagues will discuss how we became Candid and what this change means for you. But now we turn to you. Tell us what you'd like to see in a stronger social sector: how can information transform the work of social good?

Bradford Smith is president and Jacob Harold is executive vice president of Candid.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2019)

February 01, 2019

The weather outside is frightful, but we've got some January reads that are downright insightful. So grab a throw, a cup of your favorite warm beverage, and enjoy.

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Cryptocurrency and the Community Foundation Field

January 29, 2019

BitcoinWhen you hear words like bitcoin, cryptocurrency, or blockchain, what comes to mind? For many, it's technologies that are difficult or impossible to understand. For others, it's the critical components of the infrastructure that will drive commerce in the future, both online and off, as well as the method by which most data, including charitable spending data, will be tracked. Regardless of your view, one thing is certain: cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, undergirded by blockchain technology, will continue to proliferate and be embraced by the philanthropic sector. In fact, they already are.

In December, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that an estimated five hundred to a thousand nonprofits in the United States are poised to accept some form of cryptocurrency, having established accounts with payment service providers like Bitpay. Meanwhile, a handful of well-known nonprofit organizations — including DonorsChoose.org, the American Red Cross, and Fidelity Charitable — have already begun to accept crypto. Indeed, some experts believe that blockchain, and the digital currencies based on it, could fundamentally change the way philanthropy is transacted. For donors, the dual benefits of avoiding capital gains and being able to track a donation through to its intended beneficiary are of great interest. Whatever the use case, it's clear that some holders of cryptocurrency are ready and willing to mobilize their digital assets in support of charitable causes.

CF Insights, a service of Foundation Center, recently conducted a short survey to learn more about the extent to which community foundations have engaged in these types of digital transactions, and we've published the results in A Scan of Community Foundations Accepting Cryptocurrency Gifts (10 pages, PDF). In analyzing the responses, three takeaways became clear.

1. A growing number of community foundations are putting processes in place — quickly — to accept cryptocurrency. Of the 122 community foundations that responded to the survey, 27 (or 22 percent) said they are equipped, or have already begun, to process gifts of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, with most of this activity having taken place over the last two years. Another 48 community foundations told us they have plans in place to begin accepting digital assets in the not-too-distant future.

Fig.1.1_CF Insights_fdns accepting crypto

2. Several community foundations began accepting cryptocurrency in response to a donor's request. Part of the value a community foundation provides to donors is their nimbleness and ability to respond to donors' changing needs. For the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, this meant becoming familiar with the steps necessary to process a bitcoin donation during the busy year-end giving season. At the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundations, it meant staff responding to a donor's request to accept a donation of bitcoin after speaking with peers and experts and evaluating the associated risks. For both organizations, cryptocurrency was another method for turning a portion of an individual's wealth into a charitable gift, and their ability to quickly add a state-of-the-art tool to their respective toolboxes at the request of donors demonstrate their value as vehicles for private philanthropy.

3. There are pain points and challenges in accepting donation of cryptocurrencies that community foundations need to be aware of. It shouldn't come as a surprise to hear that equipping your organization to accept donations of cryptocurrency comes with its own set of challenges. Several respondents to our survey cited the risk of hacking as a concern (and a few respondents even requested not to be identified in any communications because of that concern). Others ran into problems when they tried to establish organizational accounts on some of the popular cryptocurrency transaction platforms, claiming that some platforms requested copies of board members' personal documents, including passports. The Chronicle article notes the decision by many in the nonprofit sector to wait until more regulation is in place before they jump into the crypto space.

The most cited concern by far, however, was the price volatility of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. When CF Insights launched its survey in July, the value of a single bitcoin was roughly $8,000. By the time we had collected survey responses and signed off on the design of the report, its value had been nearly halved, to $4,200. And by New Year's Eve, its value had dropped to just under $3,700. As I write this sentence, the value of a single bitcoin has slipped further, to $3,400, and where it goes from here is anyone's guess.

To learn more about community foundations and the intriguing world of blockchain and cryptocurrency, check out A Scan of Community Foundations Accepting Cryptocurrency Gifts. In it, you'll read about some of the other digital assets that community foundations are accepting, the platforms they are using, and the value (in range form) of the gifts they have accepted to date. At the same time, pay attention to what one of the survey respondents told us: the "infrastructure to receive, hold, transact, and report on crypto gifts is nascent and rapidly evolving. Vendor solutions and foundation procedures will probably look different over time" as the technology continues to spread and evolve. As it does, CF Insights will look to conduct follow-up research to learn more about what community foundations are doing to adapt to this brave new world.

David Rosado is members services manager for CF Insights, a service of Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 26-27, 2019)

January 27, 2019

Oepn_for_businessA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Communications/Marketing

In a guest post on Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications blog, Peter Panepento, philanthropic practice leader for Turn Two Communications, shares ten mistakes you need to avoid if you want to get more media coverage.

Corporate Philanthropy

New research from Marianne Bertrand and her colleagues at the University of Chicago  that matches charitable-giving data of Fortune 500 companies with a record of public comments submitted to the federal government on proposed regulations between 2003 and 2015 shows how individual corporations influence the rulemaking process via gifts to nonprofits. Christopher Ingraham reports for the Washington Post.

International Affairs/Development

Nonprofit organization Verra has launched the Sustainable Development Verified Impact Standard, or SD VISta for short. Under the standard, which sets out rules and criteria for the design, implementation, and assessment of projects designed to deliver sustainable development benefits, projects must demonstrate to the satisfaction of a third-party assessor that they advance the SDGs. Amy Brown reports for Triple Pundit.

Nonprofits

Nonprofit AF's Vu Le seems to have struck a nerve — eighty-two comments and counting — with his latest: Why nonprofit staff should not be asked to donate to the organizations they work for.

Over at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies site, Lester Salamon, the center's director, announces the release of the 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report, which found, among other things, that for-profit companies are making significant inroads in key nonprofit fields, cutting into nonprofits' market share.

Philanthropy

Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan checks in with a stout defense of philanthropy, including three examples of trending philanthropic critiques that seem to be "a bit iffy." 

In his latest, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther suggests that the important thing about wealthy people like the late Jack Bogle, the "father of the index fund," is how they make their money, not how they give their away.

Thanks to some good, old-fashioned reporting by The Guardian's Mark Harris, we now know a lot more about Elon Musk's secretive private foundation than we had previously. 

On the Ford Foundation's Equals Change blog, Hilary Pennington (executive vice president for program), Bess Rothenberg (senior director, strategy and learning), and Megan Morrison (officer, strategy and learning) explain what the foundation learned from the most recent Grantee Perception Report it commissioned from the Center for Effective Philanthropy and what it is doing to strengthen its relationships with grantees.

Whose voices should foundations listen to when they are ready "to engage meaningfully with those who would question their grantmaking strategies?" asks Ryan Schlegel on NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog. In other words, asks Schlegel, who has power and privilege in a changing country and world? And who should?

In a post on The Philanthropic Initiative blog, TPI president Ellen Remmer announces the launch of Invest for Better, a field-building initiative aimed at mobilizing women "to invest their personal, philanthropic, and institutional capital for good." 

Transparency

And philanthropy writer and communications strategist Elaine Gast Fawcett shares a few stories on the Transparency Talk blog that illustrate how family funders are thinking and acting when it comes to transparency.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The More You Know, The Greater the Impact of Your Giving

January 26, 2019

Keep-calm-and-make-informed-giving-choicesAccording to the latest edition of Giving USA, charitable giving in the U.S. exceeded $400 billion in 2017, a record. And in each of the four categories covered by the report – giving by individuals, by foundations, by bequest, and by corporations — the numbers were up, continuing recent trends.

As 2019 begins, donors need to start thinking about their giving — and the things they can do to ensure it has impact. One thing they can do is identify organizations most likely to deliver and/or create value for their clients. How?

Here are a few suggestions:

Find organizations whose work aligns with your goals. To ensure your charitable gifts are deployed effectively, head over to a site like Charity Navigator, America's largest independent charity evaluator, for objective ratings designed to help you find charities you can trust. Your research should focus on organizations whose missions align with your own goals and objectives. GuideStar is another good source of information on nonprofits.

A little Google goes a long way. A simple Google search not only will point you to an organization's website, it can also reveal information about the organization's reputation. Are there reports out there critical or questioning of its work, its leadership, its finances? Media outlets often report on charities that have violated the trust of their donors, like this report by CNN.

Check the metrics. Ask the following when evaluating the donor-worthiness of an organization:

  • Does it rigorously and consistently measure and report its results?
  • Do those results make sense?
  • Do you believe it is being transparent and honest about its results?

Charity Navigator describes in detail how to assess a charity's level of transparency. Look for statistics and information like this on the organization's website. Annual reports should be simple to understand and offer some information about the organization's impact. Holding nonprofits accountable for their results is something every donor should do.

How transparent is the organization about its finances? U.S.-based charities with tax-exempt status are required by law to file federal tax Form 990. They're also required to have their finances audited. Good nonprofits should make it easy for you to find and access multiple years of their audited financial statements and tax filings. (GuideStar is a great place to start.) If you have trouble finding an organization's 990 online, ask it to send you a copy; the speed with which the request is filled will tell you much about the organization's commitment to transparency.

Check an organization's operating and fundraising costs. "Overhead" is the necessary cost of doing business, for nonprofits as much as for for-profit businesses — it's what enables an organization to keep the lights on, pay its staff, and deliver on its mission. But not all overhead is created equal. Look at a charity's 990 tax returns to determine how much of its budget goes to overhead and fundraising and how much goes to programs and then compare that to the ratio for other organizations doing the same kind of work. The organization's annual report should provide you with this information, but if it doesn't, ask.

Look at the organization's leadership. What do you know about the people who lead the organization? The more you know, the more confident you can be in your giving decisions. A study published in Ivey Business Journal identified both personal and organizational traits and behaviors that should define today's nonprofit organizations and leaders, executives and board members alike. They include:

  • A commitment to financial stability and responsibility
  • A commitment to diversifying and/or expanding service offerings
  • A knack for identifying and addressing competitive challenges
  • A knack for identifying and addressing operational/effectiveness challenges
  • A commitment to building technological capacity
  • A commitment to increased transparency and accountability
  • A commitment to strengthening alignment with the board
  • An ability to develop a pipeline of young, diverse leaders

Can charities recover costs and still be charities? Many charities are able to recover a portion of their costs without sacrificing the quality of their services — an added incentive for donors committed to ensuring the sustainability of the organization and its work. For example, some charities charge their beneficiaries a nominal fee for services, which has the benefit of ensuring that the organization's services are truly wanted while giving beneficiaries more control over the provision of those services. Organizations should always be looking for financially sustainable strategies that are viable beyond the period covered by a donor's gift. My organization breaks down financial sustainability into three buckets: cost recovery, cross-subsidization, and profitability. The benefits in terms of our programs are obvious, enabling them to have greater impact with commensurately less reliance on individual donors.

Evaluate donor dependency. Donor dependency is a measure of how much a nonprofit relies on the contributions of individual donors to fund itself. According to Forbes, the average for a small sample it analyzed was 86 percent, meaning that the typical charity in the sample was able to bank 14 percent of its fundraising revenue for the future. If one is searching for a nonprofit that can survive a crisis or economic downturn, a rating below 100 may indicate it has substantial financial reserves or diversified revenue streams that make it more resilient when times get tough.

Look for an entrepreneurial mind-set. Nonprofits have evolved a great deal over the last twenty-five years, and many have adopted best practices from the private sector in an effort to improve their results and maximize the cost efficiency of their operations. The advantages of these kinds entrepreneurial strategies are many.

In short, as you're thinking about your giving in 2019 — and beyond — look for charities and nonprofits that inspire confidence in their ability to deliver innovative, services cost effectively and achieve real, lasting results.

Headshot_christopher_purdyChristopher Purdy is president and CEO of DKT International. From 1996 to 2011, he served as country director of DKT programs in Turkey, Ethiopia, and Indonesia, where he managed the largest private social marketing family planning program in the world. His professional interests include social marketing, global health, and socially responsible capitalism.

Employee Pressure Will Help Redefine CSR in 2019

January 23, 2019

GlobeThis past year marked a turning point in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, with an increase of activism among corporate leaders and more pressure from employees urging employers to step up their philanthropic efforts. Early in the year, a piece I wrote for Blackbaud's CSR 2020: Experts Look Ahead examined trends at the intersection of employee engagement and community impact. At the time, I predicted there would be an increase in private-sector activity focused on social issues, especially as related to disaster recovery and resiliency, as well as a rise in CEO activism. Given the events of the past twelve months, it is safe to say those predictions not only proved true but have gained momentum.

Corporations as Activists

Just last month, 3BL Media and GlobeScan released survey results indicating that eight of ten corporate leaders believe companies are obligated to speak out on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. They also predict that, inspired by the examples of Patagonia (environmental sustainability), Microsoft (diversity and inclusion), Chobani (immigration and refugee rights), and others, more than 60 percent of CEOs will increase their ESG advocacy over the next eighteen months.

Last year, Larry Fink, who serves as CEO of BlackRock, one of the world's largest investment management firms, outlined a new model for corporate governance in his annual letter to shareholders. In his letter, Fink emphasized BlackRock's commitment to considering both financial and social performance in all its investments. As 2019 gets under way, we've also seen the mainstream business press question, in pieces in the Financial Times and Fortune, the Milton Friedman doctrine that places the maximization of shareholder value above all else. Why? While core corporate values and building brand equity certainly are factors, the main benefits cited in these and other articles are employee-focused. Respondents to the 3BL Media/GlobeScan survey believe their organizations should be motivated by a desire to demonstrate a commitment beyond profit and, in a tightening labor market, do what they can to meet the expectations of employees, who have more options to take their skills elsewhere than they’ve had in a long time.

According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials want corporate leaders to commit more aggressively to making a real impact on ESG issues while preparing their organizations (and employees) for a rapidly changing business environment. As CEOs grow increasingly vocal on important social and environmental issues, their companies will follow suit and work to demonstrate the values that employees are seeking through new philanthropic investments, volunteer programs, and community initiatives. While such activism has been modeled by some of the world's largest companies and more outspoken CEOs, companies of all sizes, across all industries, will face growing employee pressure, in 2019 and beyond, to act on issues of social and community import.

Skills-based volunteerism has already emerged as one of the most tangible, measurable connection points between employee engagement, values, and corporate community goals, with more than 50 percent of companies today offering a formal pro bono program to employees. In the next few years, we'll see more of those programs evolve past their pilot stage, embed themselves more deeply in the companies and communities in which they operate, and sharpen their focus on impact — for the nonprofit, the employee, the company, and the community.

Skills-Based Volunteerism to Build Disaster Resiliency

The past two years have seen an uptick in natural disasters across the globe and here in the United States, where communities have been battered by hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, epic snowstorms, and earthquakes. Given the growing threat of climate change, there is little reason to believe that we  will experience fewer such events going forward. The good news is that American companies and corporations have responded to such disasters in force. Indeed, CECP Giving in Numbers: 2018 Edition showed a year-over-year increase of more than 300 percent in cash giving by corporations for disaster relief. While corporate partners have been quick to provide funding and launch employee donation drives when disaster strikes, these efforts often only address immediate relief needs. But as we've all learned, longer-term assistance for recovery and resiliency efforts also is needed — and presents an opportunity for pro bono volunteers to play a larger, more meaningful role in disaster recovery.

In the wake of a number of disasters in 2018 and 2017, Common Impact asked our partners a few critical questions: How could organizations work with employees from local companies to better equip their communities and region to deal with the next emergency? What skills and resources do they have that would best complement those of other institutions and organizations in their area? What we heard demonstrates that skills-based volunteerism and cross-sector collaboration can be a powerful way to help communities both prepare for disasters and support their ability to recover more quickly when disaster strikes.

It's a natural next step. The private sector's approach to disaster relief is grounded in service and sits within the context of a growing business imperative around climate change. For better or worse, natural disasters have become fertile testing ground for companies to band together to solve challenges larger than those they could reasonably tackle themselves.

Common Impact is hard at work shaping a more effective and efficient role for corporate volunteers and nonprofits seeking to support disaster relief and recovery efforts. Using our experience developing successful skills-based volunteer programs, our team has conducted extensive research and convened disaster response experts to better understand the critical role pro bono service can play in helping communities sustain their services, meet acute and unanticipated needs, and recover from the impact of disaster more quickly and efficiently. We believe this work can and will help the private sector move from a responsive approach to stronger, more proactive engagement.

While the business sector initiated the shift toward pairing purpose and profit, the concept will be tested again in 2019 — and the years to come. To be ready, companies need to identify their core priorities and make sure a social mandate is included in those priorities. Disasters, and the future, won’t wait.

Headshot_danielle_hollyDanielle Holly (@dholly8) is the CEO of Common Impact, an organization that helps companies and individuals invest their unique talents for environmental and social good. She is also a contributing writer to Nonprofit Quarterly, a member of the NationSwell Council, and has served on the board of directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and Net Impact NYC.

Weekend Link Roundup (January 19-20, 2019)

January 20, 2019

Shutdown+Architect+of+the+Capitol+US+Customs+and+Border+ProtectionA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civil Society

According to a poll funded by the Knight Foundation, there "remain some aspects of American life where political partisanship does not yet dominate" — and philanthropy is one of them. Martin Morse Wooster reports for Philanthropy Daily.

Climate Change

"Despite its stature as a major funder of climate-change solutions, [the] MacArthur [Foundation] continues to finance the fossil-fuel industry," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther, and "does so deliberately...by seeking out opportunities to invest in oil and gas...."

Communications/Marketing

On her Getting Attention! blog, Nancy Schwartz shares four steps you can take in 2019 to develop a more effective marketing plan.

Fundraising

Pamela Grow shares ten things your nonprofit can do to make 2019 its most successful fundraising year ever.

Andrea Kihlstedt, president of Capital Campaign Masters and co-creator of the Capital Campaign Toolkit, explains why capital campaigns can be a boon to major gift programs.

Inequality

The racial wealth gap is worse than it was thirty-five years ago. Fast Company's Eillie Anzilotti has the details.

Innovation

"[I]f innovation is essential to the ultimate achievements of the sector, we should spend less time on success, and more time on failure." Rohini Nilekani, philanthropist, social entrepreneur, and writer; and Kyle Zimmer, social entrepreneur and Schwab Foundation Fellow, talk with the folks at the World Economic Forum about failure and the social sector.

International Affairs/Development

A decade ago, microfinance was touted as the solution to global poverty. It hasn't worked out that way. Vox's Stephanie Wykstra takes an-depth look at its successes and failures.

Nonprofits

As we look ahead to a new year, Social Velocity's Nell Edgington has some hopeful words for nonprofit leaders and changemakers.

Is not having a COO a risk for a nonprofit organization? Eugene Fram explores that question through the lens of three different examples.

Philanthropy

Ford Foundation president Darren Walker ushers in the New Year with a clear-eyed analysis of the factors behind our current season of discontent and calls on philanthropy to "dedicate [itself], anew, to the cause of justice."

"Philanthropy's version of the 'gig economy' has bedeviled the progressive nonprofit sector for decades," argues Ryan Schlegel on the NCRP blog. "Nonprofit leaders chase program grants that pay some portion of their bills — effectively serving as short-term contractors for foundations – while hoping one day their luck will break with a general support grant that gives them time and space to actually lead." It's a dynamic, adds Schlegel, that is limiting the effectiveness of progressive foundations and their grantees.

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and a former program officer at the Rockefeller Foundation, shares seven questions he now wishes he had asked himself and his former foundation colleagues back in the day.

In a guest post on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Joanne Kelley, CEO of  the Colorado Association of Funders, a regional philanthropy-serving organization, shares three themes that emerged from an effort in her state to encourage openness and feedback in the philanthropic sector, with the goal of increasing both foundation and nonprofit effectiveness. 

On the Transparency Talk blog, our colleague Janet Camarena chats with Lani Evans,  manager of the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, the newest foundation with "glasspockets."

Angela Hariche, editor-in-chief at Two Lane Media, has a good Q&A with sector veteran Heather Grady, currently a vice president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

And the McKnight Foundation, a family foundation based in Minnesota, has unveiled a new mission statement.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a note at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The Persistence of False and Harmful Narratives About Boys and Men of Color

January 17, 2019

The following essay is adapted from His Story: Shifting Narratives for Boys of Men of Color: A Guide for Philanthropy (66 pages, PDF), which was developed by the Perception Institute for the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. The guide is based on discussions and learnings from the 2015-2017 Narrative Change Collective Action Table hosted by the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and was largely written by the Perception Institute's Alexis McGill Johnson and Rachel Godsil.

Toolkit_singlePages-pdf-v2-640x822The tragic, brutal, and untimely deaths of boys and men of color in the last few years reinforce an all-too-familiar feeling:  being a male of color in the United States is perilous. What boys and men of color are experiencing in the real world, we also know, does not veer too far from what's happening in the narratives that have come to shape the lived experience for many boys and men of color. Stories that "dehumanize" young men of color and question their value to society abound. And stories that "super-humanize" the physical characteristics of boys and men of color create fear and distrust. The common denominators in these stories are dominant narratives — stories about boys and men of color that are distorted, repeated, and amplified through media platforms, both traditional media and social media, which fuel negative and vilifying perceptions and bring them to scale. In our work, we've come to define these dominant narratives as the "dragon" we are trying to "slay."

In order to slay the dragon, we first need to understand what a narrative is, how it becomes dominant, and then how current narratives cause harm to our boys and men of color. A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events. In other words, it is a story we tell to make meaning. Narratives become dominant through repetition, particularly when told about a minority culture through the lens of the ruling culture.

Dominant narratives inform how a majority of people in society perceive and interact with one another. They are comprised of stories and archetypes that portray people of different races and ethnicities — black, Latino, Asian, or Native American — as caricatures rather than as distinct and unique human beings. For boys and men of color, the stereotypes may differ depending upon the particular race or ethnicity and historical context, but for each group, these stereotypes are distorted and limiting. Think, for example, of Black and Latino men and how stereotypes depict them as dangerous, threatening, and poor. In contrast, the dominant narratives of white men portray them as hardworking, industrious, innovative, and successful.

Dominant narratives, while constantly evolving, are rooted in the racial history of the United States, specifically the parts of that history that we do not often discuss, such as slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and other times of racial bias. As we describe in more detail in the toolkit, the effects of being defined by a dominant narrative infuse every aspect of life for boys and men of color, from housing and education to health care and career opportunities, making them more vulnerable to violence and more likely to end up in jail.

Dominant narratives about boys and men of color can also trigger or be reinforced by internalized negative self-perceptions among community members. The stories we tell about each other influence the stories we see in ourselves, making our narrative challenges both interrelated and mutually reinforcing — the external reinforcing the internal and vice versa. But it is often the dominant narrative that does the most work in driving how others see boys and men of color and how they see themselves. While the toolkit focuses on boys and men of color, these same processes are also applicable to narratives about other populations, including women and girls of color.

The Impact of Dominant Narratives

Dominant narratives of boys and men of color constrain how we perceive their potential and limit our expectations of them. In a sense, narratives become reality as boys and young men of color have their opportunities for advancement truncated throughout their lives. As boys, they are irrationally perceived as threatening rather than innocent; as students, they are labeled as disruptive rather than recognized for their academic potential; as job applicants, they are disproportionately passed over, sometimes for less-qualified candidates.

At the same time, boys of color are more likely than their peers to attend schools that have fewer experienced educators and lack resources. They are less likely to emerge from high school prepared for college and less able to compete for good jobs or access startup capital for business ventures. Most unjustifiably — and shamefully for the broader culture around them — they experience extremely high levels of contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In moments of crisis, dominant narratives lead to the assumption that the behavior of boys of color must be harmful and deadly, which in turn precipitates unjust and dangerously false interpretations of this behavior. When held as a society, dominant narratives both mirror and, perversely, provide justification for the scant allocation of institutional resources for boys and men of color, limiting their opportunities and providing system-wide barriers to their success.

All of these factors can also lead to internalized racism or internalized oppression, causing boys and men of color to see themselves through the lens of the false dominant narratives that limit their opportunity and shape their lives. As Professor Laura Padilla has noted, internalized oppression and racism are insidious forces that cause marginalized groups to turn on themselves, often without even realizing it. The combined effect of internalized oppression and internalized racism is often devastating — it can reinforce self-fulfilling negative stereotypes, resulting in self-destructive behavior.

Donna Bivens has described the phenomenon further:

Because internalized racism is a systemic oppression, it must be distinguished from human wounds like self-hatred or "low self esteem," to which all people are vulnerable. It is important to understand it as systemic because that makes it clear that it is not a problem simply of individuals. It is structural. Thus, even people of color who have "high self-esteem" must wrestle with the internalized racism that infects us, our loved ones, our
institutions, and our communities....

This last point is a crucial reminder that as we pursue our work, we must be mindful that dominant narratives affect communities internally as well as externally. This phenomenon is particularly noteworthy given the far reach and impact of media with the advancement of technology. For this reason, we can no longer have separate messages for an internal and external audience; rather, narrative change work must effectively address both audiences collectively and consistently.

Framing and the Limits of Traditional Responses

Given what we know about how dominant narratives and the damage they can inflict, why can we not seem to do more to address them? The simple answer is that the go-to approaches we have used for decades are either outdated or ineffective to address the scale of the challenge. In fact, they can even backfire on us.

Since the civil rights movement, three major innovations in communications and thinking about race and racism have furthered our understanding about how race functions in our society and provided the basis for our appeals beyond the civil rights community for progressive policies and changes in practice:

Disparity Documentation: data-driven analysis used to demonstrate the lack of full inclusion of people of color in society.

Structural Analysis of Policy and Opportunity: recognition that racial and economic inequalities stem from policies that determine institutional opportunities or create exclusionary barriers for people of color.

Intersectionality: recognition of the complex means by which marginalization and oppression operate in a person's everyday life as a result of embodying multiple interconnected and overlapping stigmatized social identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

While these approaches are critical to analysis and determining policy positions, they can be detrimental to the work of persuading the broader public that the policy position should be adopted. These approaches are not only insufficient to challenge dominant narratives, they may reinforce them. Egalitarian thinking has prevailed, yet our unconscious mind, which determines most of our behavior, remains highly influenced by stereotypes, racial anxiety, and preference for the dominant in-group. Our data, history, and logic are sound; however, social science research over the past two decades tells us that we need to move beyond the rational in order to compel change.

As a result, these approaches — which have helped paint a broad portrait of the experiences of people of color in America — cannot translate data into a sense of moral urgency or empathy. With competing explanations for racial gaps and disparities, they do not inspire those not affected directly by racial bias to create change. They do not help manage racial anxiety or racial tension, which seem to have spiked in recent years. And most importantly, they can create a sense of inevitability or intractability of racial subordination within communities of color that triggers hopelessness and despair.

When emotions and fear are primary drivers of human behavior, "rationality" becomes irrelevant. To be successful in persuading others, we must affirm the centrality of emotions and values in our reactions to race and gender. We need to create a meaningful cultural shift in the conversation about race when ideas about race are entrenched in both our discourse and language (prompting predictable reactions) and also in our unconscious minds.

Advocates should be aware of the missteps, or insufficiencies, in every stage of the narrative-building process so that we can foster open-mindedness and collaboration rather than cause further polarization. Through this work, then, we need to build upon, supplement, critique — and most importantly not be limited to — the frames we have used in the past.

The toolkit includes some often-used frames derived from our policy-driven approaches that have been developed over the years. Each has done valuable and important work in the fight against racism. But each frame also has accompanying challenges or limitations that can impede the narrative expansion we seek.

The frames described are critical components of our work: we must teach more accurate history; "whiteness as a default" is a reality we must address; identifying and building upon our shared values will be part of coalition building; and we must work to prevent the harms that stem from both implicit and explicit biases. However, these frames are inadequate and incomplete. The focus of our shared work is to create opportunities for sustained behavior change. If our current frames haven't been effective in challenging the distorted perceptions and dominant narratives about boys and men of color and people of color overall — and evidence suggests we have not — we need to find new approaches.

[Review] 'Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance'

January 16, 2019

In Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, Edgar Villanueva, vice president of programs and advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, asserts that colonialism is not a thing of the past, but lives on, like a virus, in existing systems and structures, including philanthropy and social finance. In the book, Villanueva, an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe and a veteran of the philanthropic sector who has worked in program positions at the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, examines how colonization has affected the sector and his own life, and offers a prescription for rectifying its most pernicious consequences.

Decolonizing_wealth_shadowOne of the first things he does is draw a distinction between colonialism and immigration: immigrants come to a new country expecting to abide by the existing laws of the land; colonialism, in contrast, is all about imposing control over new lands and expropriating their resources — by force, if necessary. Colonialism is about establishing dominance over others, which Villanueva likens to a "zombie invasion" in that "[c]olonizers insist on taking over the bodies, minds, and souls of the colonized."

To make his point, Villanueva points to the history of Indian boarding schools in the United States. In the late nineteenth century, as the so-called Indian wars were winding down, the federal government forcibly separated tens of thousands of Native children from their families and communities and sent them off to schools where their "education" included being stripped of their cultural identity. Children were not allowed to use or be called by their own names or to speak their Native language. The philosophy, as the founder of the first off-reservation boarding school put it, was to "kill the Indian, and save the man." The psychic, social, and cultural trauma experienced by Native children in these often-brutal environments was compounded by malnutrition, forced labor, and other forms of physical abuse that went unmarked and unaddressed.

At its heart, though, colonialism is about white supremacy; it is, writes Villanueva, "racism in institutional form," and all institutions and systems in the United States, even the most well-intentioned, have been distorted by its legacy. In the first half of the book, Villanueva provocatively describes the way this has played out over time using the slave plantation as an analogy. Overseers are generally white men or white-controlled institutions, the owners of wealth and power whose ill-gotten gains derive from the exploitation of land, resources, and people. People of color working within these institutions are like house slaves, often silenced or pushed out if they do not go along with the status quo. Communities of color are the field slaves, supplicants for assistance whose need was caused by exploitation.

According to Villanueva, the goal of the colonizer is to accumulate as much wealth as possible. In the U.S., that wealth was created by centuries of genocidal policies, land confiscation, and slavery, followed by a century of discriminatory laws and practices that denied communities of color access to white-controlled sources of wealth.

But if the love of money is the root of all evil, money itself, for Villanueva, is value neutral, neither good nor evil. Which means it can be used to help facilitate healing from trauma and restore harmony to a world out of balance. In the second half of the book, Villanueva suggests what this "decolonizing" of wealth might look like.

It begins with an acknowledgement of our history, deep grief over how the colonizer mindset has affected us all (regardless of the color of our skin), and genuine apologies. It also requires moving money to where the trauma is deepest — something that can only be known by those who have experienced it. Just as federally qualified health centers must have a governing board comprised of a majority (at least 51 percent) of patients in order to qualify for federal funds, Villanueva wonders what things would look like if half of all foundation staff and boards were comprised of individuals from the communities being served. One example: the Potlatch Fund, a Native-led nonprofit in Seattle, Washington, allocates all of its grant dollars to Native peoples, and its by-laws require that two-thirds of its board seats be held by Native Americans. He then points to the emergence of participatory grantmaking in philanthropy and participatory budgeting at the municipal level as signs of the growing democratization of institutional decision-making.

At the same time, a foundation's investment strategies cannot be divorced from its mission. Institutional philanthropy cannot expect to drive meaningful change when only 5 percent of the assets it controls is allocated to grantmaking while the other 95 percent is invested in pursuit of financial returns — often in the very companies creating the social and environmental problems foundations are trying to address. Aware of this conundrum, the F.B. Heron Foundation, in 1996, began taking steps to use its corpus more intentionally as a means of generating greater social impact. Half a dozen years later, in 2012, the foundation made the decision to invest a hundred percent of its assets in service to its mission. What might happen if every foundation committed to using its assets the same way?

Inevitably, decolonizing wealth must address the issue of reparations — an issue, writes Villanueva, that institutional philanthropy, with more than $800 billion sitting in endowments, has the means to address. Of that $800 billion, only 5 percent is distributed in the form of grants each year, and only 8 percent of that is explicitly targeted to communities of color. A sector created to do good, says Villanueva, simply must do better. To that end, he floats the idea of a "reparations tithe" — a voluntary commitment by foundations to direct 10 percent of their assets to the establishment of a trust fund that would provide grants to Native American and African American communities in support of asset- and wealth-building initiatives.

Villanueva closes his book by reminding readers of the Native principle of "All My Relations" — a world in which everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent. "All My Relations means that everyone is at home here," he writes. “Everyone has a responsibility in making things right. Everyone has a role in the process of healing, regardless of whether they caused or received more harm. All our suffering is mutual. All our healing is mutual. All our thriving is mutual.” Like two other recent publications, Anand Giridharadas' Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World and Rob Reich's Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better, his book is a valuable critique of the ways in which philanthropy perpetuates inequities, hierarchy, and oppression and an urgent call for it to engage more deeply in the healing process.

Grace Sato is a Knowledge Services manager at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

Driving Improved Access to Quality Health Care in Developing Countries

January 14, 2019

Project_cure_volunteersDespite the many impressive advances in public health we hear about on a regular basis, access to high-quality health care remains a pressing global issue. In developing countries, where traditional barriers to quality health care are exacerbated by inadequate medical infrastructure and a shortage of providers, millions of people suffer and die from conditions for which effective interventions exist simply because of a lack of access to needed care and resources.

According to a World Health Organization/World Bank Group report, at least 400 million people globally do not have access to one or more essential health services, while 6 percent of people in low- and middle-income countries are pushed further into poverty by health care-related spending. Tragically, a recent study published in The Lancet estimates that 15.6 million preventable deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries every year, including 8.6 million that probably could have been prevented through high-quality health care. Of those 8.6 million deaths, some 5 million involved patients who received poor health care.

Statistics like these underscore the fact that access to quality health care is an urgent problem — one that demands a coordinated, multi-faceted response. Underresourced health systems in developing countries invariably mean a shortage of trained health care workers, limited inventories of medical supplies and medications, and inadequate public health surveillance systems. To address these issues, efforts must be made not only to increase access to care on the ground, but to enhance existing medical infrastructure.

Fortunately, effective strategies and solutions have been created and implemented to help close gaps in health care delivery. Through their program expertise and targeted grants, philanthropic organizations can further leverage the knowledge and existing relationships of organizations on the ground to maximize impact and create healthier futures for millions of people.

Project C.U.R.E., the world's largest supplier of donated medical supplies and equipment, is one such organization. Recognizing that public health systems in developing countries have limited resources to purchase even the most commonplace medical devices — equipment that is critical for the safe and effective prevention, as well as diagnosis and treatment, of disease — it is collaborating with the AmerisourceBergen Foundation, a not-for-profit grant making organization focused on supporting global health-related initiatives, to launch a program that will provide local health care workers in developing countries with the equipment, as well as training, needed to help vulnerable populations.

To that end, an initial grant of $50,000 from ABF to Project C.U.R.E. will help support USAID's Health System Strengthening (HSS) program, an effort to better equip doctors and nurses in developing countries to treat disease, deliver vaccines, perform life-changing surgeries, and make safe childbirth the norm. The grant also will support training for medical professionals participating in the American Academy of Pediatrics' Helping Babies Survive (HBS) program, which provides neonatal care and nutrition for infants and young children around the globe.

Headshot_clark_mazottiThe collaboration of Project C.U.R.E. and the AmerisourceBergen Foundation is a small example of how philanthropy can support improved access to quality health care in developing countries. Through multi-level coordination, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, working together, can begin to break down the barriers that keep vulnerable populations from receiving the reliable, high-quality health care they need. Won’t you join us?

Gina Clark is executive vice president and chief communications and administration officer at AmerisourceBergen and is president of the AmerisourceBergen Foundation. Jan Mazotti is director of communications, marketing and Public Relations at Project C.U.R.E.

Be Bold, Take Risks

January 10, 2019

Take_the_leapEvery year for the last decade or so, organizations have shared their ideas for engaging millennials with me and then asked for my feedback. Thinking about it over the holidays, I realized I received about the same number of approaches in 2018 as in previous years.

I've been studying millennial cause engagement with the Case Foundation for most of that time and have shared all kinds of research findings and insights through the Millennial Impact Project and the newer Cause and Social Influence initiative. Organizations seek me out for advice about their own particular situation, especially as it relates to what is now the largest generation in America. Typically, they do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. they have not been able to cultivate a younger donor base;
  2. their past success is being challenged by new ways of looking at their issue, new technologies, or both;
  3. their donor engagement levels have plateaued; and/or
  4. their revenues have been trending downward and the future looks grim.

After a decade of fielding such approaches, I can usually sniff out whether an organization has what it takes to change — and by that, I mean the kind of change needed not only to attract a new and younger audience, but to engage any person, regardless of age, with an interest in their cause.

Change is hard. It demands a willingness on the part of leadership and staff to leave the status quo behind and push in the direction of a new guiding vision. In other words, it requires people to be fearless.

This kind of approach to change is detailed beautifully by Jean Case in her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.

In her book, Jean describes a set of five principles that can be used by any individual or organization to become more relevant and valued in today's fast-changing world. The five principles are:

1: Make a Big Bet. To build a movement or drive real change, organizations (or individuals) need to step outside their comfort zone and make an audacious bet on something they ordinarily would reject as too ambitious or difficult. And the risks associated with a big bet, says Jean, can be mitigated, if organizations are willing to learn and course correct along the way.

If you want to target a younger demographic, go ahead and do it in a big but measurable way that will teach you something. A/B testing one line in an email campaign to a purchased list is a small bet involving little risk and with little potential for changing anything. Building a canvassing team to collect emails at, say, a popular music festival and then tracking engagement after the event is over is a bigger bet involving more time and expense for an unknown return. Creating a mobile unit to travel to locales around the country where younger people tend to live, work, and play and then identifying influencers, micro-influencers, and potential supporters is a much bigger, more expensive bet and thus a much bigger risk. But it's big bets like that which lead to new discoveries and have the potential to propel your cause or movement forward.

2: Be Bold, Take Risks. We all need space and the permission to take risks, especially If we are looking to advance a cause or build a movement. Absent a willingness to take risks, we inevitably become complacent and are unlikely to ever tap into the creativity and enthusiasm needed to drive real change.

Internally, then, organizational cultures need to change from a stance of avoiding risk to one in which it is embraced. In practice, cause leaders should document the risks and lessons that may result from a new idea, campaign, or approach, then inform and reassure staff that though an action has its risks, the potential outcomes and learnings to be gleaned from it are worth more in the long run than not doing anything at all.

3: Make Failure Matter. Each action we take as an organization or individual brings us a step closer to defining a new hypothesis or proving an existing one. I get excited when someone calls me and says, "We tried this and it didn't work, but we learned something" — not because I want to see them fail, but because I know they're taking steps to creating an even better movement or organization built on tested methods and disciplined iteration.

Before you launch your next call to action, campaign, or event, take the time to gather from your internal stakeholders all the hypotheses you hope to test and then post them on a wall or whiteboard. Then, after the campaign or event is over, regroup and determine which of the hypotheses proved out and which didn't, what you think you learned, and what you need to test next.

4: Reach Beyond Your Bubble. "Partnership" is an overused word in the nonprofit sector. Today, being a partner is an expectation, as is finding ways to join forces with others around a common approach to social impact. That said, it tends to be the unlikely partnership that generates the most meaningful change for the issues we serve.

In other words, look beyond the tried-and-true partners you've always worked with and identify organizations and individuals in other sectors who may have a unique asset you can use to advance your cause or movement. It could be a tech company whose technology can help make your approach more impactful for your constituents, or an entity that serves the same constituency but with a different product or value proposition.

5: Let Urgency Conquer Fear. The time to take action is now. Not tomorrow. Today. It's imperative for your organization to develop a sense of urgency about its issue, because a sense of urgency is often the only thing that drives us to find time to make change. Look at any direct mail appeal you received in December: I bet every single one pointed to the urgency of the situation — and most of them probably included an explicit deadline In their call to action ("Act before midnight on December 31!").

Not convinced? What if I told you your organization has a built-in structural need to engage its donors and supporters right now. Give up? It's this: 18 percent of the contacts in your database go bad each year. If you don’t address your donor engagement problem now, you'll be launching your next campaign or call to action already behind. Today is always the best time to experiment, to adopt a new approach, to try something risky that may lead to a breakthrough.

In her book, Jean invites us to ask ourselves, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" — and to answer fearlessly. As I hope I've helped you see, being fearless doesn't mean you have to climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean, or cross the hottest desert. And it doesn't mean you have to gamble your organization's future on an all-or-nothing bet. What it does require is thinking big, being intentional, making (and learning) from mistakes, and taking action, even if it's a small step — today and not tomorrow. You can do it. Good luck, and Happy New Year!

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

Caring for the City’s Caregivers

January 08, 2019

Housing_affordabilityThat wise woman Rosalyn Carter once said, "There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver." We all have a stake, one way or another, in caregiving and in what happens to the individuals who provide that valuable service. And here in New York City, caregivers, quite simply, deserve better care from all of us.

A City in Need of Assistance

New York City turns to its not-for-profit human services sector for essential caregiving for people without homes, parents, or job prospects and, of course, for caregiving services that enable older New Yorkers to age in their communities, living independently with the assistance they need to stay connected to friends and meaningful activity. According to the city's Department for the Aging (DFTA), there are approximately 1.64 million older adults currently residing in the city's five boroughs. As these individuals age, their need for a range of services will grow, and the role that not-for-profits like JASA play in providing those services will become ever more critical.

The continued health of not-for-profit human service organizations relies heavily on employees who interact directly with their clients. Navigating the complexities of the legal, social services, and healthcare systems, not to mention simple life activities, can be challenging at times for any senior, but for those struggling with health, housing, and other issues, it can be overwhelming. There is a real need for the work my organization does, and that need continues to grow.

At the heart of our work are the relationships we build. The key to providing quality services hinges on being able to recruit and retain individuals who genuinely care and are able to establish a connection to the client that fosters trust. Finding skilled individuals is the first challenge. It is not uncommon in 2019 to hear not-for-profit employers say there are more jobs out there than qualified applicants to fill them.

The second, and perhaps even more critical challenge, is retaining good people once you've brought them into your agency. This is particularly true when speaking about social workers, case workers, home health aides — anyone advocating for, providing a necessary service to, or offering older adults assistance in navigating the many challenges they typically face as residents of a large city with a complex and often confusing network of services.

Client trust is key to what we do, and as they say, it is something that must be earned. A revolving door of individuals who continually need to re-familiarize themselves with a client's unique situation tends to breed hostility and distrust. Those feelings, in turn, make it harder for a caregiver to fully learn and understand the challenges that a client faces, and to identify solutions that will benefit her. There's also an added burden on staff when colleagues leave and there are fewer individuals to share the workload — a too-common occurrence that tends to increase stress and reduce an agency's ability to provide quality services, which may prompt still more staff turnover.

Building a Network of Support for Caregivers

There are many dimensions to engaging and retaining good employees. Meaningful work may be the biggest draw — because, to be candid, no one ever went into social work for the money. But there are other incentives, including:

  • having a supervisor who respects you and listens to what you have to say
  • getting recognition for your contributions
  • feeling part of the organization and knowing that it appreciates what you do and what you care about
  • mentoring and professional development

And, of course, compensation that is fair. This is always a challenge. As a not-for-profit agency, we stretch every dollar we take in to provide the critical services New York City's seniors need. Having to rely on government contracts makes it especially difficult. State and city requirements for program staffing and salaries, as well as indirect program costs, stress our bottom line. The burden of ever-increasing accountability adds to the financial challenges we face.

The city's commitment to an increased minimum wage is a good start in terms of bolstering hiring and fostering retention, in that it helps individuals on the lowest end of the pay scale. But there are knock-on effect to a higher minimum wage. Individuals who are supervising minimum-wage employees who are earning more money as of January 1 may find themselves at the same pay level as the people they supervise. Don’t they deserve a pay raise? Where does an agency, hamstrung by inflexible state and city contracts, find the dollars to create a fair pay scale for all its employees?

New York City not-for-profit agencies quite simply find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Advocating for increased wages for hourly workers makes good sense and is the right thing to do. Higher salaries tend to result in a more skilled, committed workforce and better employee retention rates, and ultimately result in a better service model. But if government isn't adequately compensating agencies that provide services, those agencies inevitably will seek out philanthropic dollars to make up the shortfall — and that, as we know, is not something that can be counted on as a consistent, steady source of income.

Here in New York, in addition to inadequate government contracts, employers also face the issue of a higher-than-average cost of living. The reality is that many workers in New York City simply cannot get by doing the work they are trained to do.

A recent report from the New York City comptroller Scott M. Stringer asserts that New York City is suffering from an affordable housing crisis, with individuals at the low end of the pay scale being forced to devote up to 74 percent of their income on housing. We certainly see it affecting the city’s older adult population, with our affordable housing units for seniors having, in some cases, a ten-year waiting list.

And we hear it from our employees as well.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to create more affordable housing units in the city, an effort that is to be applauded. Affordable housing is critical to attracting employees to the social services. But the sad reality is that the mayor’s actions to date are not enough. Employees earning minimum wage cannot afford New York's "affordable" housing. And if workers cannot afford to live here, where will agencies find the employees they need to meet the demand for and provide ever-more-critical services?

In his report, Stringer lays out several steps the city could take to help align affordable housing to the need, including working more closely with nonprofit developers to create affordable housing units on city-owned property. But that is only part of the solution. Common sense tells us that a more comprehensive, coordinated government effort is needed if we are to move the needle on this issue. The city and state desperately need federal dollars to address the city’s housing crisis — a crisis that grows more serious by the month for not-for-profits that provide vital community services.

At the end of the day, attracting and retaining workers who provide care to elderly and other vulnerable populations is not just the responsibility of the not-for-profit agencies who employ them; it also the responsibility of government — city, state, and federal — and the officials we elect to represent us.

Headshot_Kathryn_HaslangerKathryn Haslanger was appointed chief executive officer of JASA, a nonprofit agency serving older adults, in November 2012. The organization's services, which include affordable housing, adult protective services, elder abuse prevention and intervention, legal services, health promotion, mental health, home care, and home-delivered meals, are designed to keep seniors — of all races, religions, and economic backgrounds — living safely in their own homes, in familiar surroundings, with independence, dignity, and joy.

Building the Power of Immigrants and Youth of Color

January 02, 2019

BP+LCF+Siren+Rally059852Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN) - Bay Area has spent the last several years building the political power of immigrant and youth voters with the aim of shifting the political landscape in the region and across the state. In 2018, we doubled down on our commitment to building this political muscle by registering more than fifteen thousand new immigrant and youth voters, contacting a hundred and sixty thousand already-registered voters, and mobilizing more than two hundred volunteers. In the 2018 midterm elections, our efforts helped generate one of the highest turnouts in state history for a midterm and resulted in the passage of critical local and state ballot measures, as well as the defeat of House members opposed to immigrant rights. 

One of SIREN's youth leaders, Miguel, participated in phone banking and door-to-door canvassing of Spanish-speaking voters. Although Miguel and his family cannot vote because of their immigration status, the day after the election he told us: "The community was my voice at the polls yesterday. Immigrants and youth came out and demonstrated our power in Northern California and the Central Valley. Through our voting power, we are passing policies in our state and region that are impacting our families, and we will carry our momentum into 2019 to fight for immigrant rights and protections for immigrant youth."

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New Year's Eve Roundup (December 31, 2018)

December 31, 2018

Happy_new_yearHere's our final roundup of the year. Wishing everyone a peaceful and prosperous New Year! For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

No one has ever confused private equity with charity. That's not a surprise. As the Ford Foundation's José García and Xavier de Souza Briggs remind us: "One of the functions of private equity investment is to finance early-stage ideas and companies. Another is to help transform mature companies, for greater competitiveness....But too often," they add, "we have seen private equity funds focus narrowly on maximizing profits through leveraged buyout practices that come at the expense of disadvantaged workers, families, and communities." Must that always be the case? And is there any reason to hope that private equity investors might do something different to address the needs of displaced workers? In a post on the foundation's Equal Change blog, García and de Souza Briggs share a tale that provides a glimmer of hope.

Eillie Anzilotti, an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, shares seven things we, as a country, can do to create a more inclusive economy.

Fundraising

On the GuideStar blog, veteran fundraiser Barbara O’Reilly, CFRE, looks back at the year just passed and identifies some reasons for concern: giving in each quarter fell about 2 percent on a year-over-year basis, and the number of donors in the first half of the year fell about 7 percent (compared to same period in 2017). Just as importantly, donor retention rates dropped by 4.6 percent. As people start to file their 2018 returns, nobody knows how changes to the tax code will affect giving, but O’Reilly has some sound advice for nonprofits hoping to navigate the next twelve months unscathed.

Giving

Does taking pleasure in giving to others make us selfish? In Psychology Today, Kristin Brethel-Haurwitz, PhD, and Abigail Marsh, PhD, suggest that "it is our fundamentally caring nature that moves us to help others, and that feeling good may be merely a lucky and foreseeable outcome of giving, rather than its purpose — a critical distinction."

Urban Institute vice president Shena Ashley shares three trends in 2018 that could shape/reshape charitable giving in the years to come.

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Most Popular Posts of 2018

December 28, 2018

New-Years-Eve-2018.jpgHere they are: the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in 2018 as determined over the last twelve months by your clicks! 

It's a great group of reads, and includes posts from 2017 (Lauren Bradford, Gasby Brown, Rebekah Levin, and Susan Medina), 2016 (by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, May Samali, Bernard Simonin, and Nada Zohdy), 2015 (Bethany Lampland), 2014 (Richard Brewster), 2013 (Allison Shirk), and oldies but goodies from 2012 (Michael Edwards) and 2010 (Thaler Pekar).

Check 'em out — we guarantee you'll find something that gives you pause or makes you think.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

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  • "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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